Freight’s role ‘recognised’ in new UK aviation strategy


UK transport trade body the Freight Transport Association (FTA) says the UK government’s newly announced consultation on aviation strategy shows that ministers “recognise the importance of air cargo to the UK economy”.

It noted that one of the themes of the Department for Transport’s call for evidence from stakeholders is “global connections”, which FTA said “has huge relevance for freight”. FTA had been pressing the government for a speedy decision on a third runway in the south east and supports Heathrow’s expansion plan “as the UK’s only truly global freight hub”.

Alex Veitch, FTA’s head of air cargo policy, said: “FTA is delighted to see the key role of the air cargo sector recognised in the consultation paper. The report also acknowledges the importance of Heathrow to the air freight market, and its potential for growth was an important argument for supporting the proposed expansion there.”

Veitch highlighted that in 2015, goods worth around £160 billion were shipped by air between the UK and non-EU countries, with air “the only mode where exports were greater than imports”. This represented “over 40% of the UK’s extra-EU trade by value and shows the importance of aviation to our global trade”.

Veitch said the UK “should be top of the league for international trade in all sectors - including air cargo - but was currently languishing mid-table”. As the consultation document highlights, the UK is only 13th on the Air Trade Facilitation Index (ATFI) and 22nd on the eFreight Friendliness Index (EFFI), both of which are tables compiled by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) to measure the ease and efficiency of air freight processes across the world.

“The document is refreshingly transparent about the scale of the challenge to improve the position of air freight and we look forward to working with government to find ways to improve air cargo trade,” Veitch added. “The other top priority is dealing with the implications of Brexit, particularly air services agreements, and we are pleased to see that this is already a priority for ministers,” he said.

As the paper states, alternative arrangements will be required for air services to or from the 44 countries (including EU member states, the US and Canada) where the UK’s market access is via EU-negotiated agreements. New arrangements have been identified by the government as a top Brexit priority, the FTA noted.

FTA said it would review the document in detail and discuss with members of its Air Freight Working Group before submitting a response to government.