Relaxation of restrictions on international services from UK regional airports

The UK Government has invited applications from foreign airlines to fly new international "fifth freedom" services to or from UK regional airports not covered by existing bilateral traffic rights. There will in future be a general presumption in favour of allowing such services, for both passenger and cargo services.

The announcement supports the UK's policy, as set out in the 2003 Aviation White Paper1, to promote the growth of regional airports2 It is also consistent with the UK's general approach towards liberalising its bilateral air services agreements. As well as opening up new possibilities for air carriers, the move will potentially mean more services and better connectivity for passengers outside the South East of England. It will improve access to markets, and help to enhance the growing contribution that airports throughout the UK are making to their local and regional economies.

The Government's announcement follows a study by the UK Civil Aviation Authority on the potential costs and benefits of such services3. The Government accepts the CAA's conclusion that in the majority of cases the introduction of such services is likely to have positive benefits for UK interests as a whole once the cost and time savings for consumers, the benefits for regional airports and their suppliers, and the benefits from tourism are factored in.

The Government also accepts the CAA's assessment that there could in some circumstances be potential negative impacts for existing services from regional airports from the granting of new rights. It may therefore in such cases wish to assess the likely balance of benefits before agreeing new rights. There may also be cases where the proposal needs to be considered within the context of the current position in UK's bilateral aviation relations with the home country of the relevant airline.

The general presumption in favour of liberalising fifth freedoms from regional airports will apply subject to those considerations. However, the UK Government undertakes to deal with any requests to operate such services with a minimum of delay.

The UK government accordingly invites foreign airlines to submit expressions of interest in operating such services - either through their own government, or direct to the UK Department for Transport.

1 The Future of Air Transport - www.dft.gov.uk

2 For these purposes regional airports means those outside the London system

3 An Economic Assessment of the Impacts of Granting Fifth-Freedom Rights to Passenger Services from UK Regional Airports - www.caa.co.uk