Supply Chain Spotlight: Flightpath to the future

By Alexandra Herdman, public policy manager, Logistics UK

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The UK government recently published its ‘Flightpath to the Future’ document, which contained its 10-point plan for aviation – a strategy aimed at building an innovative and sustainable aviation sector.

While it is encouraging that the plan recognises the vital role of airfreight as a tool for levelling up and international trade, it is crucial that the creation of an Aviation Council – as outlined in the plans – includes freight industry experts to ensure the air cargo sector is fairly represented and carefully considered in the delivery of the priorities outlined within the plan.

A key priority within the plan is to support growth within the aviation sector, which will include a detailed review of slot capacity.

Logistics UK has long called for increased freight capacity to enable further trade opportunities and support UK plc and therefore welcomes this review.

Throughout the pandemic as passenger flights were put on hold, capacity for airfreight increased.

As noted in the Future of Freight report: “While passenger volumes dropped by 75% during 2020, air cargo saw only a 21% reduction.

“This sector-led resilience adaptation is an excellent example of the strengths of the freight and logistics sector at large.”

However, as the travel industry begins to recover and the number of passenger flights begin to return to pre-pandemic figures, it is vital that air cargo is not once again sidelined.

In November 2021, the UK Government announced ambitions to achieve £1trn in exports annually by the mid-2030s and with £87bn of gross value added depending on airfreight exports, the sector must continue to be recognised as a key enabler of the UK economy if the Government’s ambition is to be achieved.

Logistics UK welcomes Government’s aim to support growth in airport capacity.

RiverOak Strategic Partners (RSP) own Manston Airport in Kent and is currently working on plans to develop it as an air cargo hub.

While the company is awaiting its final Development Consent Order (DCO), it is hoped that the hub will be operational by the end of 2024 and RSP has predicted that once fully operational, it will hit 1m tonnes of cargo movements per year.

Logistics UK looks forward to seeing these plans progress and is encouraged by RSP’s proposals to use hydrogen in order to power ground operations as well as plans to link to the Thames via hydrogen-powered vessels.

Increased growth in airport capacity would be a vital boost for the sector and government support will play a crucial role in this.

Logistics UK was also pleased to see the inclusion of innovation for a sustainable future within the Flightpath to the Future plan, most notably the specific plans to help put the sector on course to achieve Jet Zero by 2050.

However, while its ambitions surrounding Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) are to be applauded, and the funding welcomed, Logistics UK remains concerned that the Jet Zero Council does not include a dedicated freight representative.

The plan outlines the extensive collaboration needed between government and the air industry, so it is disappointing that freight representatives are not considered a vital part of that.

Overall, it is encouraging to see government give such careful consideration to aviation as it looks to recover from various challenges across recent years.

Many of the points in the plan are promising however, given the vital role it plays to the sector and wider UK economy, airfreight must remain a primary consideration and must not be sidelined.

Logistics UK is therefore urging government to work with industry and include it within plans and councils moving forward.

Supply chain spotlight: The key to supply chain resilience

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