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Press Release: LBA's New Economic Report Effectively Claims Airport is 'Immune' from COVID-19 Impact

Campaigners against the proposed expansion of Leeds Bradford Airport (LBA) have criticised a new report issued by AMP Capital, the airport’s owners, as “smoke and mirrors”, after it claimed Covid-19 had had little effect on its medium and long-term passenger forecasts.

GALBA – Group Action on Leeds Bradford Airport – already has its legal experts examining the report which was released after GALBA highlighted that any approval would be unlawful if based on out of date economic and passenger forecasts that didn’t take into account the Covid-19 impact.

Chris Foren, Chair of GALBA said: “The latest report from Leeds Bradford Airport is simply smoke and mirrors to try and deflect from the fact that the pandemic has decimated the aviation industry globally. For them to claim LBA is immune to Covid-19 and that economically the arguments still stack up, is disingenuous at best.”

“This report, paid for by LBA, is not truly independent and has been rushed out - in less than a week - to try and divert attention away from the facts. Leeds Planning Officers asked LBA to update its passenger claims but all LBA has done is simply move all of its figures forward by 2 years. Most aviation experts are now predicting that passenger numbers will not recover to 2019 levels until 2024 at the earliest.”

On 28 July the Chief Economist of the International Air Travel Association (which represents 260 airlines worldwide) warned there would be no return to 2019 levels of demand until 2024. And the Chief Executive of Swissport recently said there is no escaping the fact that the aviation industry is now “smaller than it was, and it will remain so for some time to come.”

Redundancies have been announced in their thousands across major international airlines such as British Airways and Quantas. Even budget airline RyanAir lost £167m in the last quarter and admitted passenger numbers were down a staggering 99 per cent.

Chris Foren said: “Regardless of when, or if, air travel demand picks up again, it doesn’t change one crucial fact: LBA expansion would mean increasing its greenhouse gas emissions in the middle of the climate emergency - already announced and acknowledged by Leeds City Council. That is morally wrong and sustainably reckless. We have already called on the government and Leeds City Council to support a sustainable economic recovery, creating good quality jobs that help to tackle the next crisis - the climate crisis.”

GALBA’s barrister, Estelle Dehon, added: “LBA’s application is based on passenger projections made in 2017, ignoring the dramatic impact of Covid-19 on the airline industry. This is why GALBA wrote to Leeds City Council in June, informing them that it would be unlawful to approve such a flawed application. In response LBA has just produced a short, headline document. This update, in true LBA style, simply concludes that LBA will ride out the impact of the pandemic better than everyone else.”

Additional notes:

1) Expansion: Leeds Bradford Airport claim their planning application is not about expansion but has asked for an extension to its current flight times to run for an additional 90 minutes every day – starting at 6pm through to 11.30pm - adding thousands of flights and admitting up to 3 million more passengers through the terminal every year.

2) Objections: 2,000 objections have been lodged so far against LBA’s planning application, including 5 Leeds MPs and numerous councillors from Leeds, Bradford and other parts of West Yorkshire.

3) IATA warning: on 28 July Reuters reported IATA’s forecast that recovery to 2019 demand levels is not expected till 2024.

4) Airports Council International (Europe): information released on 16 July 2020 revised the forecast recovery from 2023 to 2024.

5) Swissport redundancies: The Yorkshire Evening Post reported large scale redundancies among ground staff at UK airports.

6) Climate impact of Leeds-Bradford Airport expansion: researchers at Leeds University have examined the climate effects of LBA’s expansion plans. The airport wants to double the number of passengers using the airport every year from 4m to 7.1m by 2030. This means that by 2030, the climate impact of all the extra flights would be double the target for all emissions for Leeds as a whole. By 2045, the overshoot would escalate to almost a factor of 10. By 2050, the combined climate impact of all flights through Leeds Bradford Airport since 2018 would be almost double the carbon budget for Leeds as a whole. Even if only one in five passengers are Leeds residents, their flights alone would use up 35% of the city’s entire carbon budget by 2050. The full article is available here.

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