Newcastle International Airport is the most northerly major commercial airport in England and was therefore watching last week's Scotland Independence referendum more anxiously than any other airport. The 'No' vote means it is relatively business as usual, but the airport's chief executive officer, Dave Laws told The HUB yesterday that the debate on devolution has taken us away from the key issue in the UK market - that Air Passenger Duty is a regressive tax that is holding aviation across the whole of the UK back.
"Our country is an island nation which, by its very nature, relies upon air connections. It is also a trading nation, with exports a particularly important part of the economic recovery. It makes no sense, therefore, to have a tax on aviation which is higher than any other country in the world by a huge margin," he explained.
"APD is reducing the competitiveness of the UK, reducing the number of jobs being generated and restricting the number of connections available to businesses needing to access global markets. Perhaps the discussion generated by the Scottish Referendum will lead the political parties to consider an end to APD, or at least to them reducing it across all parts of the country," he added.
The HUB sat down with Dave Laws to find out more about the latest developments at Newcatle International Airport.
Q) What have been your key network success of the past year?
A) "We have achieved strong growth across all of our scheduled carriers. We were delighted to see the introduction of bmi regional on the Brussels route, with a Brussels Airlines codeshare. Aer Lingus Regional have made a strong start on both Dublin and Cork, and Flybe is once again serving Exeter. The Emirates service continues to grow very strongly. Passenger numbers of the Boeing 777 served route show double digit growth, and the value of exports carried on the service has grown from under £20 million before the route started in 2006, to over £250 million in 2013."
Q) What are your aspirations for network growth in 2015?
A) "We will continue to work with our airlines and tour operators to ensure the airport continues to grow. We have an ambitious set of targets, but these are of course confidential. Our plan includes the addition of capacity with existing airlines and on existing routes, and hopefully the securing of some new connections for the North East."
Q) What factors are driving network development in Newcastle?
A) "Connectivity is hugely important to business in the North East and we are always working on behalf of the North East travelling public to ensure our network meets their needs. The North East has in recent years maintained its status as the only UK region with a positive balance of trade, i.e., our exports exceed our imports. A number of key economic indicators produced by the North Eastern LEP show that the region is growing strongly, and this growth will help drive forward our aeronautical programme."
Q) How are you working with airlines to support their network activities?
A) "We continue to enjoy strong relationships with our airlines, working closely with them on marketing and other activities. We feel the Routes Conference is an important part of the programme and is why we are taking part once again this year. We were delighted to be voted best large airport in the UK by readers of Which? Magazine for a second year running. We work hard with our airline and other business partners to continually improve the customer experience, with the aim of making Newcastle the most welcoming airport in the UK."