Introduction – impressions of industry
Good evening ladies and gentlemen.
Thanks for that welcome.
It’s an absolute pleasure to join you tonight (6 March 2018), and thank you to Ed and the AOA for inviting me to speak.
It’s not often you get the opportunity to address so many distinguished figures from across the industry.
It gives me the chance to talk a little about my first 4 months as Aviation Minister.
Four busy, but fascinating months.
I’ve really enjoyed getting around the country – I now spend most of my Fridays meeting organisations of all shapes and sizes.
I’ve seen how Luton Airport’s investing for the future, and met the apprentices who’ll be part of that future.
I’ve visited Gatwick and heard about its new flights to places like Buenos Aires and Singapore.
I’ve seen how excellent surface access to Southampton Airport is making passengers’ journeys so much easier.
How Newcastle Airport’s just reported record passenger growth.
And how Heathrow has been consulting on its plans for a possible third runway.
I’ve been trying to meet as many of you as possible.
What I’ve encountered over these 4 months has been hugely impressive.
An ambitious, innovative, and rapidly evolving aviation industry with a clear understanding of its importance to Britain’s future. But also a clear appreciation of its responsibilities too.
I’ve been struck by the way you’re all competing fiercely. Yet you come together as a single, unified industry to meet common goals.
And it’s that same sense of shared purpose that I feel as Aviation Minister, and that the department’s aviation directorates feel too.
We are dedicated to working with you.
And when there are problems, finding solutions with you.
As I said, it is great to see so many people here tonight. And you have a lot of shared success to celebrate.
Record passenger numbers in 2015, 2016, and then again in 2017, with more records broken for Stansted, Edinburgh, Leeds Bradford, Glasgow.
And many more.
Investment in airport facilities around the country is continuing.
Air freight was up 10% last year. Gatwick’s cargo volumes soaring by a quarter.
And East Midlands forecasting that the annual value of non-EU trade passing through the airport has exceeded £10 billion for the first time.
Then there’s the proliferation of new routes all over the world, from regional airports, to countries like the USA, Canada and further afield
All evidence of a dynamic, evolving industry.
But we cannot take future success for granted.
Without investment and growth, we’d lose our competitive edge.
So I and the DfT are right behind you, doing our best to support you and look out for your interests.
The UK aviation sector is the third largest market in the world, and we want to continue being a competitive and leading global partner.
In order to do this, we need to keep asking ourselves some fundamental questions.
How do we maintain our competitive edge in the face of rapidly expanding markets overseas?
How can we build and sustain a consensus around the need for growth?
How can we manage the impact of that growth on the environment – particularly carbon emissions and noise?
How can we harness the power of new technology and data?
How can we ensure consumers’ interests are protected?
How can we keep passengers and cargo safe and secure?
And how do we best forge a new future outside the European Union?
The government cannot answer these questions alone.
The only way to address them is to continue the constructive and collaborative approach that we have all developed, and taken, in civil aviation.
That’s why our new aviation strategy will be rooted in partnership between government and industry.
It will ask those challenging questions and more.
It is our shared willingness to do this and think creatively together that will ensure we continue to be a global success.
The strategy will set a new framework for a safe, secure and sustainable aviation sector.
With the connections Britain’s economy will need to continue growing up to 2050 and beyond.
It will consider areas where government can make a real difference – including our borders, which for many passengers are their first experience of coming in to our country.
I will work with the Immigration Minister, Caroline Nokes, and the Director General of Border Force, Paul Lincoln, who are both with us tonight, to deliver a secure border, that allows swift entry to the country for legitimate passengers and goods, and that demonstrates Britain is open for business.
Growth and Expansion
Central to demonstrating this is supporting the growth of aviation through expansion.
That’s why in October 2016 the government selected a new northwest runway at Heathrow as its preferred scheme for delivering new airport capacity.
Among the reasons for this decision was the potential for strengthening the links between our network of regional airports and our major international hub.
In the immediate term we need to follow the recommendation from the Airports Commission to make the best use of the capacity which already exists at all our airports.
We will soon be setting out how best to achieve this as part of the next steps in our development of the new aviation strategy.
Another major priority for the strategy is to develop the way that UK airspace is managed, in order to achieve a cleaner, quieter, more efficient aviation sector.
I was fascinated to visit Swanwick recently and learn more about the work of NATS controllers.
And also plans for wider airspace modernisation.
Including a feasibility assessment of potential future airspace demands of airports in Southern England.
Something that is long overdue.
The government has confirmed it will implement proposals for.
A new Independent Commission on Civil Aviation Noise (ICCAN).
Changes to noise compensation policy.
And more accurate navigation of flight paths through the use of new technology.
A modern airspace is just one of the ways we can make flying greener.
Together the government and industry have made important progress in recent years.
In addition to introducing new noise policies, we’ve also made progress on carbon.
In 2016, we agreed the first ever sector-based global climate change deal with the goal of carbon-neutral growth for international aviation from 2020.
New generation aircraft and engines are cleaner and quieter such as EasyJet’s new Airbus A320 NEOs.
I was pleased to see all this excellent work highlighted when I attended the launch of the ‘Sustainable aviation progress report’.
Again I was struck by how our industry achieves its goals when it works together.
Throughout all this work, we must never forget the communities that we serve.
A major challenge for us all is to improve engagement with local communities.
We need to consider those living in areas surrounding airports, and how we explain what we’re doing to make best use of capacity and airspace, and reduce the environmental impacts of flying.
I know that airports are keen to grow. But in order to do so, we need to ensure you have the support of the communities around the airport.
That is why community engagement is vital, and I know many airports represented in this room tonight have made significant progress in this area.
But of course aviation is also about the millions of people up and down the country that take flights every year.
So we need to continue putting the passenger at the heart of everything we do.
But about serious issues that affect the travelling public. Issues like those we saw last week when severe weather hit the country.
I want to thank you for the way you responded.
To minimise disruption.
And to advise, help and support passengers whose flights were delayed or cancelled.
Great service is a powerful tool in keeping passengers coming back.
It is the human face of the aviation industry that passengers value.
The personalised care and service provided by airport employees or cabin crew on aircraft.
And it is for this reason we must redouble efforts to tackle the problems that undermine people’s overwhelmingly positive experience of air travel.
Dealing with disruptive passengers.
Providing quick and efficient compensation when justified.
Making sure there’s support to help disabled or elderly passengers.
And ensuring we respond when things go wrong.
The importance of this was brought home late last year with the sad collapse of Monarch.
Despite how challenging this was for all involved, it clearly showed that by government and industry working together, we were able to successfully deliver the largest peacetime repatriation in UK history.
I thank those in government, the CAA and across industry, including many of you in this room, that worked tirelessly to bring our citizens home, and who also provided new opportunities for staff who lost their jobs.
It’s imperative that we learn from this, and listen to the views of those affected.
So Peter Bucks’ review has been tasked with finding a solution that allows the orderly wind down of an airline as it enters insolvency.
Ensuring that it can repatriate customers as an integral part of the process.
Part of the consumer journey is the interaction with airport security.
No issue is more important in keeping passengers safe.
Last week the Home Secretary and I were in Washington talking to the US government and industry from both sides of the Atlantic, about the terrorist threat and how to address it.
Another example of how we are at our best, coming together to achieve shared goals.
Security standards in UK airports are second to none.
The excellent work of our new force of overseas aviation security liaison officers is helping ensure that passengers get improved protection at airports abroad.
Thanks to your innovation.
And by hosting overseas delegations who come to see aviation security at its best.
You are instrumental in raising standards globally.
As the 5 terrorist attacks in the UK in 2017 vividly demonstrated, the threat is real.
Which means we need to keep innovating to try and stay one step ahead.
And I certainly welcome your continued collaboration.
Before I finish and let you get on with your dinner, there is of course one last subject I should address – Brexit.
The Prime Minister set out our ambitious, yet credible, vision for a future economic partnership last Friday.
And specifically on aviation, she announced the UK’s intention to seek participation in EASA.
I know this confirmation will be very welcome to everyone in this room.
The fact it was part of the Prime Minister’s speech shows the importance of aviation and aerospace to our Brexit negotiations.
And how vital it is that we get a positive deal for the industry.
A positive deal will be crucial for both the UK and the EU.
My officials and I are working with the third countries where air services are currently governed by EU agreements, to ensure that new, replacement arrangements are in place after we leave the EU.
Despite some reports to the contrary, talks so far have been positive and we have made significant progress.
It is obviously a high priority to provide reassurance for our industry, and I would like to thank you for your engagement and support in this area.
It has been incredibly helpful to hear all your concerns and priorities.
And as negotiations progress, we will of course continue to work closely with you.
My main messages tonight are.
I, and the rest of the government will work with you at every stage to address the challenges we face.
We are committed to ensuring the aviation strategy represents the interests of every airport across the country.
I’m incredibly proud to be your Aviation Minister, and to champion our world-leading aviation sector.
So I will do what I can to represent your interests.
To support sustainable growth.
Which, with your help, will make Britain a stronger, more competitive and more prosperous country.