SLAE Press Release – October 2019

The Government’s ‘ Beyond the horizon, The future of UK aviation, Making best use of existing runways’ document combined with the Aviation 2050 consultation has fuelled the expansion plans of all London Airports to rise to the challenge of meeting a so called growing demand for air travel.

Since the publishing of these documents the effects of aviation on climate change has been further  researched with more emphasis given to how the industry should respond to be Carbon Neutral by 2050.

The Committee on Climate Change (CCC) says that any growth should be limited to 25% though it is reported that the government plan a 49% growth.  The exact detail of how this 25% would be shared among the airports of the UK has not been detailed by Government although airports are still progressing with their expansion plans.

There is also the very expensive and complicated task being undertaken to reorganise the airspace above the South of England.  Realistically there are only two ways to achieve this, move aircraft into  the skies over areas that has empty airspace, or set a movement capacity cap at airports.

Based on the claim by Luton Borough Council and London Luton Airport Operations Limited, that it has to expand to meet demand for flights, Stop Luton Airport Expansion (SLAE) decided to undertake an exercise that identified the number of empty seats that were flown, as opposed to the number of passengers flown in a given month.  Passenger (load not flown) statistics are used by airports.

To find the number of empty seats, we used the reported scheduled passenger numbers by destination from the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) website for  July 2019.

We then used internet data sources to compile comprehensive flight schedules for that month. Where we came across a lack of data on flights to be truly accurate, we removed them from the exercise (1). We did not include charter flights, as the information on aircraft used was not available. Where multiple airlines were on a route, or different capacity aircraft used by a single carrier, an average of seating capacity was used to provide the empty flight figure.

The figures we found were:-

Flights in the month                            10,320

Seats available                                     1,931,632

Passengers carried                              1,678,226 

Empty seats                                          253,406 (13% of availability)

Empty flights                                        1,369.5 (13.3% of availability)

The data, by destination, is detailed in full in the downloadable document with this article .

These figures show that in our opinion, the proposed expansion of passengers at London Luton Airport which is currently under consideration could actually be achieved by filling all the empty seats which occur over a year.

This would mean not one extra flight is required

No additional flights added to the Air Traffic Control system.  Alleviating the claim made by the airport operator  that congestion and slot delays are the cause of increased night jet flying.

If the airport operator wanted to add new destinations within that passenger growth, then by cutting the current schedules where capacity is greater than demand, it would free up that capacity, so once again not one new flight would need to be added.

This principle could apply to any airport which is seeking development / expansion at this time.  The focus would be on efficiency rather than expansion, with more empty seats.

This would encourage reporting of flights by empty seats, rather than passenger numbers, encouraging climate change initiatives.

  1. The routes excluded were Lyons-France, Palma-Majorca/Spain, Pisa- Italy, Seville-Spain, Venice-Italy. And seasonal routes Bodrum-Turkey, Palermo- Sicily/Italy, Split- Croatia, Tallinn-Estonia.

Published by, Friends of Wigmore Park/Stop Luton Airport Expansion. October 2019

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