Rod Eddington: There is a great future for UK civil aviation

From a speech on new airports by the chief executive of British Airways, given to the Freedom to Fly Conference in London

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As you would expect, the issue of aviation infrastructure in the UK is close to my heart. I welcome the Government's consultation on new UK airport development options. The recognition that it gives to the role of a competitive UK aviation industry in meeting the needs of the nation is critical.

That doesn't mean we're the only potential beneficiaries. I believe that building extra runway capacity can truly be a win/win situation. There is one myth that we will be aiming to dispel – that improving infrastructure is good news for industry and bad news for local communities. Improved surface transport and aviation infrastructure creates employment and wealth, and reduces the stress of travelling within communities. If it is neglected, communities suffer – just ask the residents of Manila and Mexico City who have felt the detrimental effects of once adequate infrastructure being neglected.

We want to have a dialogue in the local community and with the Heathrow area local authorities, to the fullest extent possible. We want to know people's concerns and fears, and their aspirations and expectations from the industry and government.

Seven years ago, we committed that we would not introduce any new aircraft noisier than the 747-400. At that time we flew older, noisier 747s, and people were suggesting that future big aircraft would be noisier. All those old 747s are gone now, and whatever the future holds in terms of fleet acquisition, we retain that commitment.

The aviation industry is being offered the prospect of the airport infrastructure we need, and that the UK needs – provided we meet demanding environmental targets and requirements. If we get this right there is a great future for UK civil aviation.

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