James Moore: Clouds part for ailing airline industry

Outlook: The domestic tourism industry's efforts to promote holidays at home have been scuppered
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The Independent Online


So there are some people who are smiling about Britain's sodden summer: those working in the airline industry. According to BAA, which runs most of Britain's airports (for the moment anyway) long-haul passenger numbers have stabilised (for the moment anyway).

The recession might loom large over every spending decision made by anyone other than bankers or MPs, and the pound might be down to 65p outside this island, but people have decided enough is enough.

They may be down to their last few pennies, but a good number are spending them on heading for the departure gate. The amount of people taking long-haul flights (not including to North America) grew, thanks in part to airlines slashing fares in an attempt to persuade people to get back on planes. It was enough for BAA and its Spanish owners, Ferrovial, to make clear that they would not be selling Gatwick off on the cheap to comply with the demands of the Competition Commission.

All those efforts the domestic tourism industry has made to promote holidays at home have been scuppered. The breathing space may only be very temporary. We'll need to wait until October at least to see if this is anything more than a short-term blip. If it is, it will send a bad message to the industry – namely that bad weather will encourage people to fly whatever.

Flying remains a thoroughly miserable experience for those of us unable to afford business class. If a few wet weekends make us take to the air in the middle of an economic ice age then we will probably fly at any time regardless of how badly we are treated. If would be nice if the air industry used the breathing space it has been give to address this. But don't bank on it.

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