Local Airports for Local People? a Review of the UK Policy to Encourage Sustainable Growth at Regional Airports

Local Airports for Local People? a Review of the UK Policy to Encourage Sustainable Growth at Regional Airports


S Tucker, A Smith, David Tucker Associates, UK


This paper examines the role of regional airports in the UK in particular it considers the extent to which they serve the regions as local airports and the impact of their growth on surface access.


In 2003 the UK Government set out its long-term strategy for the development of air travel up until the year 2030. Central to this strategy was the encouragement of growth at regional UK airports in order to 'support regional economic development, provide passengers with greater choice and reduce pressures on overcrowded airports in the south east' (The Future of Air Transport. DoT 2003).

The White Paper deemed that growth at regional airports would help 'cater for local demand' and as such provide more local access to flights.

Since the publication of the White Paper, growth at regional airports has acheived, and in some cases, exceeded, the Government's forecasts with growth in air travel largely driven by low-cost carriers such as Easy-Jet, BMI Baby and Thomson Fly.

This paper provides an overview of UK airport policy in respect of regional airports. It goes on to place the development of UK Airports into a European context by examining growth in regional airports on the continent, in particular those of France and Spain. The paper provides and understanding of the UK's greater dependence upon short-haul air travel than that experienced within mainland Europe.

The paper considers in detail the extent to which UK regional airports serve the local or regional population. By reviewing data provided by the Civil Aviation Authority it identifies the distribution of available flight destinations across the regions and the changing dispersal patterns of passengers accessing the regional airports.

The paper concludes that flight destinations are not evenly distributed across the regions and that as a result there is a continued need for passengers to travel long distances in order to access the required flight.

The research further concludes that the growth in the number of passengers flying from the UK's regional airports has not resulted in larger proportions travelling from origins which are more local to the airport.

Finally the paper reflects on the impact of regional airport growth on the ability to provide sustainable surface access to regional airports as opposed to travel to and from hub airports.


Association for European Transport