Invest in aviation now to secure greener future, Prospect urges government

12 June 2020

Now is the perfect time to make strategic investments in aviation that can help the industry recover in a way that is sustainable and more environmentally friendly, Prospect has told the government.

Prospect represents air traffic controllers and other aviation workers, and the union makes the call in a new report that argues for government to take a much more interventionist role in the future of the aviation industry including in modernising air traffic management.

The COVID-19 crisis has resulted in a reduction of air traffic by approximately 90%. This is set to be compounded by the UK’s imposition of quarantine measures. The reduction in traffic has had a devastating impact on the whole aviation industry, which contributes £22 billion and 230,000 direct jobs to the UK economy.

The report, Resilience and Recovery through the Covid-19 crisis: state support to sustain the civil aviation sector, argues that “Taking the opportunity to upgrade these capacities and accelerate moves toward greater sustainability would pay economic, social and environmental dividends for years and decades to come.”

For example, improvements in air traffic management and operating procedures, which have been placed on pause, have been estimated to have the potential to reduce UK aviation’s carbon dioxide emissions by 3.1 million tonnes a year, according to the industry’s latest sustainable aviation roadmap.

The uncertainty in the aviation industry means that important programmes of upgrades have been paused while businesses struggle simply to survive the crisis.

The proposal has been discussed with ministers however the conditions of the government’s Birch Process stipulate that companies must exhaust all possible other options before direct state intervention will be considered, even if this involves the suspension of strategically important investment decisions.

Prospect general secretary Mike Clancy said:

“The aviation sector is facing an existential crisis, but it is also an opportunity for government to take a strategic view of the industry if they are willing to step in.

“Airports and air traffic are critical infrastructure and essential for the recovery of national and regional economies, we cannot pretend that these are commercial enterprises like any other.

“If the government steps in now, it can ensure not only the future of the sector but also a cleaner and greener sector in the future. Once you lose critical infrastructure it is incredibly hard to get it back.”

Download the report here.


Prospect has members working in aviation, road, rail and maritime transportation, as well as regulation and research.