UK Aviation 2050: Airfreight must play a defining role

Alex Veitch

Alex Veitch, head of multimodal policy at the Freight Transport Association (FTA), explains why the cargo sector should be a central part of the UK’s aviation strategy, currently under discussion.

Airfreight currently represents around 40% by value of the UK’s imports and exports, and as the UK seeks to supplement European trading opportunities with economies further afield after Brexit, its importance will only increase.

That is why it is so vital, in the view of FTA, that airfreight is placed front and centre of the government’s future aviation strategy. As the only business organisation representing all of the logistics sector, FTA submitted its response to the government’s consultation, Aviation 2050 — the future of UK aviation, following a series of discussions with its members.   

Within its response, FTA has made clear its seven demands to government. Most importantly, FTA has requested a dedicated freight chapter in the White Paper; the government must set out a clear and ambitious vision for airfreight. After all, it will play a pivotal role in achieving Britain’s future trading aspirations post-Brexit.

The six other demands include: for security to be prioritised and consistently implemented; the safeguarding of vital land around airports to facilitate growth; the digitalisation of all processes in the industry to unlock further efficiencies; a greater ambition to facilitate growth and enable trade; a recognition of the improvements made in air quality and noise; and finally, the commissioning of a new airport connectivity study to address surface access limitations. In this article, we will explore some of these key requests.   


FTA would like to see the government adopt a more ambitious stance to grow global trade. While a third runway at Heathrow Airport is an essential step forward – FTA is pleased to see this commitment reinstated in the Green Paper – we also need to see freight growth at all other UK airports.

The government should not consider there to be an ‘either-or’ choice between growth at Heathrow Airport and growth in long-haul bellyhold cargo and short-haul freighter and express destinations at other UK airports.

There are different types of airports and government policy needs to be agile and able to support growth at them all.

We would also like to see the government providing clear direction to planning authorities that they should support industry to make best use of capacity. After all, failure to provide suitable freight capabilities will only mean bleak prospects for British businesses seeking new global markets.   

Furthermore, surface access is a significant barrier to growth; FTA has called for the government to commission a new Airport Connectivity Study to highlight where transport links and freight parking facilities need to be improved and set a programme for action.

The government must improve road journey reliability; planning authorities should be required to develop freight surface access plans to provide sufficient HGV parking and logistics facilities.  


Security is naturally a high priority issue for the air freight industry. As a truly global sector, the coordination of security standards at international level through ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organisation) – as laid out in the Green Paper – is to be welcomed.

FTA’s members have highlighted that there are occasionally differences of interpretation between certain IATA (International Air Transport Association)/ICAO guidelines for security and dangerous goods, which can lead to complications for forwarders choosing which airline to use; the UK should push for a consistent approach to international channels and engagement. 

For more information on FTA’s work in the air freight sector, please visit  

The White Paper can be viewed here   


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