Addressing a cross party reception of MPs, Lords and business leaders on the day of the Queen's Speech, Birmingham Airport CEO Paul Kehoe called on the Government to get behind Britain's great airports for great cities.
With the South East's airports increasingly congested and the Airports Commission looking at long-term runway options, Paul Kehoe called on the Government to do more to maximise use of what capacity the country has now, within its city regions. In Birmingham's case, the airport is just 70 minutes from the capital and, with its newly extended runway, can cater for long haul routes to China and the US West Coast.
Paul Kehoe told the cross-party gathering MPs:
"The West Midlands is the only region in the UK with a positive balance of trade with China, with our advanced manufacturing base leading the way. Businesses in the region and beyond tell us that they want to fly to growing markets around the world from their local regional airport, not have to travel through the congested South East.
"With air traffic set to double over the next fifty years, the Airports Commission is rightly looking at expanding UK airport capacity, but we also need to see Government action to make better use of the airports and runways we have already. This means changes to tax rules to encourage airlines to use regional airports for long haul routes, and a concerted government-led marketing push around the world to let growing markets and foreign airlines know Britain's city regions and our airports are open for business.
"With less than a year before the election, we are looking forward to continuing to engage with political parties, businesses and across the aviation industry, to debate how we can promote the role that the UK’s great and connected cities and our regional airports can play in rebalancing the economy.”
Birmingham Airport will, on 22 July, become the country's first airport outside London to host a flight to and from China. In 2013, Birmingham attracted a record number of visitors: 941,000, up 32% on the previous year. In the same year, £27 billion of goods and services were exported from the West Midlands.
Birmingham has just been ranked as the best city in the UK to invest in and the second best in Western Europe, overtaking London. The rankings were published by US locations title Site Selection.
Birmingham secured 41 inward investment projects – the highest on record – during 2012/13, a 52% rise against a national increase of 11%. The city is home to more than 32,000 companies, including nearly 700 international firms. The city has also recently been awarded ‘FDI Destination of the Future 2013’ and recognised as the most attractive UK regional city for quality of life (Mercer 2014).