Leeds Bradford Airport's plans for expansion are often characterized as a huge economic opportunity for West Yorkshire. The aviation lobby would like us to believe that expansion of flight capacity is essential to our economic well-being. However, a dive into the evidence points to a different reality and to different solutions.

The Air Transport sector was ranked among the least productive sectors in the economy when it came to generating jobs

Airports around the world, including LBA, are planning to replace workers with technology – because machines are cheaper than people.

Office for National Statistics (ONS) data suggests that, as of 2015, the Air Transport sector ranked among the least productive sectors in the economy when it came to generating jobs, coming 108th out of 129 sectors.

In addition, productivity growth in air transport has not translated into increased wages; after considering inflation, wages in air transport were significantly lower in 2022 than they were in 2006. This wage squeeze has been felt exclusively by middle and lower-paid workers, with only real wages at the top seeing real-terms growth.

Research by the New Economics Foundation, and peer reviewed by the respected economist John Siraut, has challenged the aviation industry’s claims that expanding airports is good for the economy.

Leeds Bradford Airport is chiefly a tourist airport and their expansion plans would take thousands more people and their money out of the local economy to spend it abroad.

When this ‘tourism deficit’ is taken into account, airport expansion would mean an overall loss to our local economy. 

NEF’s report is the first comprehensive analysis of the economic costs and benefits of the UK air travel sector since the government published its policy in 2012.

There’s a very accessible two minute video that sums up the report’s findings and there’s a short written summary on the Aviation Environment Federation’s website. You can read the full report here, with a three page summary at the start, including recommendations to government.

“The current reality is declining business air travel, declining wages for air travel workers, declining job numbers and declining domestic tourism spending in the UK. So who exactly is benefiting from ever more air travel? You needn’t look much further than the highly paid executives, the private shareholders and the wealthy minority of ultra-frequent flyers”

GALBA believes that in the long-term, controls on the trajectory of airport growth will protect the interests of aviation workers.

We need to restrain reckless decisions that put short-term profits before sustainable infrastructure. GALBA supports the work of Safe Landing, an organisation dedicated to supporting workers in the aviation industry.

Find out more about Safe Landing here.

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"We want to remain proud of our industry and can surely only do so if we're honest about the impacts of flying and the changes required to reduce these impacts"

We need a green new deal that gives people jobs with a future

GALBA would also like to see workers in the aviation industry supported to find good quality, safe and sustainable jobs in low carbon sectors of the economy.

We need a green new deal that gives people jobs with a future, for the future. For example, we urgently need to super-insulate thousands of homes across West Yorkshire and fit heat pumps to keep them warm.

GALBA has produced a report that shows the enormous potential for ‘green’ jobs in West Yorkshire – we just need the investment.

One Million Climate Jobs

The Campaign against Climate Change Trade Union Group has co-produced a report that analyses how tackling the environmental and economic crises can work together to build a thriving society. The report details how jobs that lead directly to cuts in emissions of greenhouse gases could produce up to one million jobs in an integrated National Climate Service. This investment would create many more jobs in supply lines and boost the whole productive economy.

The Online Technical Companion to the report includes further reading, background papers and the calculations behind all the estimates of costs, job numbers, and cuts in emissions. You can download both the report and the technical companion at

'We have people who need jobs, and jobs that must be done.'

Other issues

Leeds Bradford Airport is big enough already