HC Deb 17 June 2003 vol 407 c206
11. Mr. John Randall (Uxbridge)

If he will make a statement on the change in low-cost air (a) passenger numbers and (b) traffic movements in the last five years. [119412]

The Secretary of State for Transport (Mr. Alistair Darling)

Passengers on low-cost carrier flights through UK airports, both domestic and international, have increased substantially in recent years, from 7.7 million passengers in 1998 to 35.4 million last year. Air traffic movements increased over the same period from 86,000 in 1998 to 308,000 in 2002.

Mr. Randall

I thank the Secretary of State for that answer. Does it not indicate to him that some of the projected growth in air movements and air traffic might mean that the issue comes down to the small regional airports associated with low-cost flights, rather than the major airports?

Mr. Darling

Up to a point. Interestingly, although there has been a dramatic growth in the low-cost no-frills airlines, many of whose services are point-to-point between regional airports either in this country or continental Europe, there is still a growth in travel on conventional scheduled airlines. What we have to do is reach a judgment on whether this recent rapid development of low-cost airlines is likely to change the whole pattern of air travel in future or whether it will add to the pressures on the conventional hub-and-spoke operation at Heathrow, for example. We will address that issue during discussions prior to the publication of the White Paper at the end of the year, but the hon. Gentleman is right to say that there has been a phenomenal increase in low-cost airlines in the past five years in respect of airports that many people had thought until now were almost doomed to closure. That is one of the issues that we will need to take into account.