Aviation industry and big-willy politics.. Simon Jenkins – The Guardian


Politics (Photo credit: Lst1984)

This is a thoughtful article from Simon Jenkins, the Political Editor at the Guardian. The article shows us the murkier side of aviation politics and lobbying. Check it out!

Yeo’s runway


politics (Photo credit: Asoka G M)

 is big-willy politics, and that is the most dangerous politics of all | Simon Jenkins | Comment is free | The Guardian.

The point that the article missed is to consider the agenda for the Coalition Government’s policy paper which is scheduled for release later in the year. In my view, the UK’s airline industry is riddled with inefficiency, and the current regulation of airports provides a major opportunity for improvement. Indeed, the challenge extends to all regulated industries, a point picked up recently by Conservative MP, John Redwood in his blog.

Personally, I struggle with Simon Jenkins argument favoring stimulating consumption rather than investment. Most economists argue in favor of the multiplier effect from stimulating investment which gives more “bangs for your buck” of stimulus. Some open public questions that come to mind are:

  1. Why are UK airports so bad when compared to other major airports throughout the World?
  2. What are the real constraints on improving effectiveness?
  3. How do UK airports compare to other major airports in terms of key metrics, like:
  • Revenues, passenger numbers, revenue mix and relative profitability from segments
  • Costs
  • Investment
  • Customer  service
  • Throughput effectiveness
  • Staff flexibility
  • Space utilization
  • Safety
  • Security
  • Outsourcing etc.?

What do you think?

Enhanced by Zemanta

5 responses

  1. Pingback: George Osborne talks tough but acts like a Labour chancellor | Simon Jenkins | Comment is free | The Guardian « Dr Alf's Blog

  2. This is difficult because I find myself agreeing with part of what SJ says, part of what Dr Alf says and part of what JAG says but not with all.

    SJ is absolutely right to point to the dangers of “big-willy politics”. In somewhat different terms this has been the subject of many of my recent blogs. I also agree with him when he suggests that small incremental improvements to local situations can, in the end, prove far more effective than big ‘headline’ projects – especially as the latter have a rather unfortunate history of overuns in terms of both time and money.

    Dr Alf rightly points to inefficiencies and over regulation as a problem in many areas, not just airports, and it would be very good to have answers to his three questions.

    I would have been quite pleased with myself if I had written JAG’s first three paragraphs. I also agree with his comments regarding our Transport Minister and Tim Yeo MP.

    At the end of it all, and regardless of who has said what, there are three matters that need to be addressed.

    1) What can be done on an airport by airport basis to improve efficiency?
    2) How much additional capacity is required?
    3) Where is that required.?

    Since there is no point in posing question without, at the very least, hazarding an answer I will try but I suspect my suggestions will be flawed.

    1) Appoint a Manager (since that is what we mean – no fancy titles – to have the authority to control each airport. This would be a big job for Heathrow but not impossible. This man (or woman, as the case may be) would have absolute right to hire and fire, to negotiate with staff for improvements (and with unions) and the right to spend an agreed percentage of airport income without reference elsewhere. This person should be appointed on an annual basis and the we should choose Dyson/Branson characters who have proven ability in the running of enterprises. Most importantly, once the brief is properly written, this person would have an absolutely free hand.

    I2) I think SJ is right in pointing out that we seem to be concentrating a lot of tourist travel from a limited number of airports. This is resulting in the closure of provincial facilities (such as Plymouth). For this question properly to be considered, there has to be a geographical element instead of the present London-centric argument.

    3) This cannot be tackled until the above are sorted out. That means more delays but they are unavoidable if the right decision is to be taken UNLESS it is decided to emulate our Victorian ancestors and go for something fare-sighted and grand – such as a Boris Port in the Thames Estuary which, by providing far more than is presently needed could, as did the sewerage system of London under the control of one person (Joseph Baselgette) built in the 1850’s.

    Rodney Willett writing under the umbrella of ‘Think Local’.

    • Rodney, many thanks to taking the time to reply here. You present an interesting argument but I want to take up your point about “a manager” for each airport.

      Much as I like the idea of an “empowered manager”, I do not think that this will fly (excuse pun please) with the current industry regulation and airport ownership.

      The UK airports were previously part of the Public Sector and indeed in many respects, like gold-plated pensions, still behave like the Public Sector.

      Heathrow is owned by “British Airports Authority” (BAA) who in turn are owned by Ferrovial, a Spanish infrastructure group.

      BAA used to own Gatwick as well but were ask to sell it to improve competition. The current owners of Gatwick are GIP (Global Infrastructure Partners, who also own the City Airport). GIP is an US-based infrastructure company, set up by General Electric (GE) and Credit Suisse – these days there are other investors in the fund too and in individual airports etc., like for example, sovereign wealth funds.

      Regulation of the airports is under the authority of the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).

      Apologies for the detail but given the complexity of ownership of the airports and their governance, I struggle to see how “one manager” could be effectively empowered.

      In my mind, the inefficiency here and in similar regulated industries, all goes back to the post-war privatization, plus the second wave that happened under Lady Thatcher’s leadership. Whilst, I endorse private ownership in principle, I question the effectiveness of the CAA and the equivalent for other regulated industries.

      Given the dire state of the UK economy, I favour wholesale reform of the regulated industries, seriously increasing competition. This was also the view of John Redwood MP (cited in my blog)

  3. UK airports have been a disgrace for many years, due to the inefficient way they are run, poor signage, disorganisation before and after check in, poor roads leading to the airports and lack of publicity for suitable train services that cost less than the ones they tout, such as the Gatwick Express.

    They also suffer from underpaid staff, dishonest baggage handlers and Border Control staff who are three times slower than their counterparts in Hong Kong and Shanghai.

    That aside we need more airport capacity throughout the country and in London because not having it drives foreign businesspeople away and is costing us billions in lost business.

    Watching the so called “Transport Minister” outside Kings Cross Station yesterday talking about consultations and the consensus for no third runway at Heathrow I wondered whether this wilful and stupid woman actually lives in the same country as the rest of us. Does she really think that with the country in its present economic state that we can carry on as we are?

    Even George Osborne, as ineffectual as he is has recognized the need for more airport capacity and the other MPs, fearful of unemployment are now pressing for it.

    Tim Yeo is a cunning, duplicitous and opportunistic MP and if people remember his position at the beginning of this Parliament he was all for Green Taxes and other elements of the Bilderberger Agenda, Club of Rome policies. These are based on reducing the earth’s population to 1 billion following the Malthusian doctrine and Gaiia Theory as propounded by Professor James Lovelock and the Arch Malthusians Prince Philip and John Holdren in America who is now Obama’s Chief Scientific Advisor.

    Now Yeo sees that this is leading to business stagnation and unemployment at levels that this late on in the Parliament will see him out of a job.

    As for Simon Jenkins I would want every utterance from him and his newspaper subjected to rigourous scientific scrutiny before believing it. He is also patrician and utterly out of touch and speaks nonsense except on the one occasion this year when he said that there would be no nett economic benefit from the Olympics. This one statement is however not typical of the man who should be pensioned off and sent to a home for English eccentrics.

    During last winter for example, he was suggesting, again in the Guardian, that the Government should not clear away snow from homes, airports and streets and that everyone (as if they had the sort of income he enjoys), could just build a log fire, stay at home and wait until it all passed, even if it took months!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: