New freedom to fly campaign an ‘industry front’…

Residents would prefer the ‘freedom to sleep’

HACAN ClearSkies, representing residents under the Heathrow flight path, has branded the Freedom to Fly lobby group, to be launched on Monday (1), as nothing more than front organisation to enable the industry to campaign for a big expansion of aviation regardless of the social and environmental consequences.. The new group, which is to be headed-up by John Prescott’s former right-hand man Joe Irvin (2), is expected to argue that if aviation is not allowed to expand people on lower incomes will not have the freedom to fly open to others. (3). It is also expected to reveal survey figures to show that most people want to fly more often (4).

John Stewart, the Chair of HACAN ClearSkies, said, “If all Freedom to Fly tells us at its launch is that most people like flying and want more airports, the whole thing will be a damp squib. To tell us that people like cheap flights is no new dramatic revelation. What this new lobby group fails to address is the effect that an expansion of aviation will have on the people living under the flight paths to airports and the damage aviation is doing to our wider environment. Our members are more concerned about the freedom to sleep than the freedom to fly”.

Stewart added, “The Freedom to Fly campaign is the response of an industry under pressure to clean up its act. In recent years it has been heavily criticised by residents’ groups and environmental organisations concerned about noise and pollution. Freedom to Fly claims it is interested in campaigning for the continued right of ordinary people to fly around the world at low prices. But that is simply a smokescreen to allow the industry to carry on expanding. Freedom to Fly is a propaganda organisation for the aviation industry masquerading behind a concern for the rights of ordinary citizens. It has very little to do with equity. The appointment of Joe Irvin to front the organisation once again raises questions about the close relationship between the Labour Government and the aviation industry.”

Notes to Editors

  1. Freedom to Fly is to be launched on Monday 14th January at 8.00 for 8.30am at the offices of the CBI at Centrepoint, Charing Cross Rd.. Its backers include BAA, BA, Virgin Atlantic, the Confederation of British Industry, The Transport and General Workers Union and the British Tourist Authority.

  2. Joe Irvin was John Prescott’s political adviser for several years until he stood down last Summer. Previously, he was head of research at the Transport and General Workers Union.

  3. The Freedom to Fly campaign is expected to argue that if residents and environmental groups get their way, people on low-incomes will be denied the freedom to fly open to their better-off counterparts.

    The equity implications of more expensive air travel are often raised. HACAN ClearSkies counter-arguments would be:

    • The poorest in society would not be losers from a clampdown on aviation. Frequent air travel is not an option for the least well off, and probably never will be. They are more concerned with finding the money to pay the local bus fare than thumbing through the brochures of Ryanair or Easy Jet.

    • Leisure travel by air is so cheap at present that it would need to go up enormously before people would need to cut flying out altogether.

    • Any equity ‘losses’ need to be balanced against the equity ‘gains’ that would result from more expensive air travel: the improved quality of life for some of the very poorest in the UK living under aircraft flight paths.

    • Curbing air travel would have environmental gains for poor people in developing countries as it is often those countries that are the big losers from global warming, to which aviation is becoming a major contributor

    • The backers of the new group promise “dramatic new polling results on the public’s attitude to flying and airport development.”

For more information contact John Stewart on 0207 737 6641 or 07957 385650