A new report published by the Airport Operators Association (AOA), the trade body for UK airports, has highlighted the vital contribution airports make to their local communities.
The report shows that as well as making a huge contribution to the UK economy, airports also provide many social benefits locally. They also help people to find jobs and start their own businesses.
Commenting on the report, Darren Caplan, Chief Executive of the AOA, said, “Airports are an integral part of the UK aviation sector, which supports a million jobs, £50 billion GDP and provides £8 billion in taxes to the Treasury. The Airport Operators Association’s ‘Airports in the Community’ report has been published in order to highlight the impressive and diverse work airports also undertake in their local areas. We believe this is the first time such information has been presented together.”
The aviation sector is a key driver of economic growth, helping the UK to create businesses and jobs. The sector contributes over £50 billion to the UK economy, provides over a million jobs, supports 2.5 million tourism jobs and pays over £8 billion a year in taxes.
Looking in depth into one of the UK’s main airports, Heathrow, it is one of the largest employment sites in the UK; with over 76,000 employees and 320 businesses. It accounts for one in five local jobs and also has a significant impact on the national economy.
Interestingly, the story of Heathrow’s brand new Terminal 2 shows what an important contribution many airports make. All of the Queen’s Terminal was constructed in Britain, at £2.5 billion, it has been one of the largest privately funded infrastructure projects in the country and will welcome 20 million passengers a year.
Its design and construction has directly supported 35,000 jobs right across the country: from the 77 tonne, 70 metre entrance hall Slipstream sculpture fabricated in Hull, to the direction signs manufactured in Exeter.
The Terminal 2 project has helped to underline that there is a wealth of expertise, skills and talent across the country and that the UK remains extremely competitive, both on price and product quality.
Newcastle International Airport plays a vital economic role in North East England. It contributes 3,200 jobs on site and supports 8,000 in the North East region, to which it makes a £650 million economic contribution. Since 2006, the value of exports flown through the airport has risen from under £20 million to over £250 million; with most of them carried by Emirates to Dubai and beyond.
Duco Ltd, a £60 million subsea oil and gas manufacturer, employs 500 people at its site in Newcastle and flies engineers internationally to work on projects, installations and repairs. Then there is the value to the local economy of visitors arriving at the airport, with each incoming visitor to Newcastle Airport spending on average £720 in the region.
Many UK airports and their staff also have a long tradition of helping to provide funding for local health charities.
In 2013, staff at Gatwick Airport raised more than £25,000 for its three nominated charities: St Catherine’s Hospice, Sussex Wildlife Trust and its own on-airport charity Gatwick TravelCare. In addition, the airport organises a Fundraising Week every year, which unites the airport staff, encouraging them to raise money in creative ways and offering passengers the opportunity to contribute also.
Heathrow and Gatwick airports have both recently unveiled revised expansion plans in an attempt to secure permission to build the UK’s next runway.
Both have submitted their plans to the Airports Commission, in order to expand UK air capacity. The government-appointed body will choose between a second runway for Gatwick and either a third runway for Heathrow or extending the northern runway to the west. They will make their recommendation after the 2015 general election.
What are the productive aspects of expanding some of the UK airports, for example, Heathrow?