Pages 305/6 of the Luton Rising (LR) Business Plan detail the outcome of a workshop held in December last year, so that the Board of LR could identify what they thought were the key points of considerations going forward, planning this recovery.
Firstly they covered the strengths of LR:-
Clearly identified as a Community Airport – how is this a strength when competing with other airports for new airline business? All airlines really care about are cost base and catchment areas, not who owns an airport.
Relationship with Luton Borough Council (LBC) – LR is a PART of LBC, the only strength in that area is that – as we know – LBC can borrow and lend money to LR at a far better interest rate than other airports are able to.
Proximity to London and good transport links – this hasn’t changed in decades. There are only good transport links if you live North/South. East/West links are pitiful and will not improve under expansion plans.
Gives good impression of Luton – really?? Consistently bottom of consumer satisfaction surveys for the airport experience, poor value for money.
Able to attract low-cost airlines – is the bottom end of the market the only aspiration to grow business that LR have? What about the full-service carriers who bring a bigger spending demographic of passenger, which in turn increase income? If Luton Airport is such a great airport, why are there no full-service carriers operating?
If these poor examples are the only strengths, then what are perceived as the weaknesses?
Relatively short runway limiting route development – this weakness is another that has existed for decades. Surely this should have been a key consideration before agreeing spending on expansion plans, as they reference longer routes being operated. How can you plan for growth in areas you know you have definite restrictions in?
Increasing complexity of business/challenges facing key business outcomes/achieving balance between assets and returns – these are only weaknesses because LR has quantum leaped from a simple rent collector to an Airport Developer, and then chosen completely the wrong projects to develop. Without the DART in particular, none of these weaknesses would have put LR financial stability into question.
So, what opportunities did the LR Board think they could build on?
Direct relationships with airlines and whole system – does this mean another round of discounted fees to artificially grow the passenger numbers, and if so, just where will that money come from?
Partnership development/educational outreach/engagement with business community/closer alignment with Luton 2040/commercial property development: – once again all examples that could have been expanded on over the past twenty-four years, but have not.
Missed opportunities from the past yet again?
Threats were next on the Think Tank Agenda: –
Spare capacity and effect on price – Luton currently does not have any spare capacity, but Gatwick airport does, and that is indeed a huge threat.
Launch of new business units in uncertain time and environment – not really a threat, as have we have mentioned, Green Horizons Park was never intended to have any industrial use, just the site of Terminal 2 and its swathes of car parks.
Climate Change and impact on passenger behaviour – There we have the true feelings of LR clearly laid bare, not the effects of Climate Change on every living creature on the planet, BUT whether passengers decide to do what is right for our Planet themselves. LR will continue to destroy the local/global environment anyway, and hope there are enough of their own mind-set to make it pay cold hard cash?
Concession Agreement – it looks like after years of our and other groups asking the question, it may finally have registered at LR, just what happens when the next concession says no to their demands to sign on the dotted line? Climate Change and the next Concession are the two biggest threats LR are facing, and neither do they appear to have an answer for?
Next up were political threats: –
Change of National Policy on aviation – one of the many LR Mantras is Government want us to make best use of our runway, that doesn’t mean double the size of the airport and its emissions. Surely this means be grateful for what you have and use it more effectively, and be more considerate to all communities affected?
Ward pressures locally, leading to a change in local control at LBC- Ward pressures mean nothing unless they are Wards that return Labour Councilor’s. The East Luton Wards which will bear the brunt of expansion, return Liberal Democrats who currently pressure every decision on the airport, and are repeatedly ignored. A change in power will stop expansion, a continuation of a Labour majority will only prolong it.
Economic threats: –
Subsidy or tax on aviation fuel/changes in UK GDP figures/changes in UK tax levers i.e. a polluter’s pay tax, increasing consumer costs- all these would be a good thing for the Planet, but obviously not for the books of LR, once again a sign of where priorities lie?
The Threats section of the SWOT analysis then addressed social/technological and legal threats to the airport and expansion, and then came to the final point of discussion, which should have been the one that the report writers started with, as it is the only one that truly matters: environmental threats.
We will simply cut and paste the LR deliberations on this clear and present danger: –
“Global climate change — increasingly recognised, understood and accepted as a threat and driver for change
Impact of development on local amenity and biodiversity
Impact of changes in weather systems on operations and the lifecycle of assets”
Finally, the mind blowing opinion that the climate effects on their airport operations, and values, are of equal importance as the destruction of the Planet.
If these are the findings of the LR Think Tank, achieved after hours of debate and no doubt “soul searching”, then Dear Reader be afraid, be very afraid, as they really do seem to have no grip on reality.