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The Environment Rears its Head Again

The aviation industry is a cyclical business. This is as true as the debate about its impact on the environment, as it is about traffic and profitability. 

Over a decade ago the industry faced an onslaught as attention focused on the green agenda and the damage being done by the ever-growing demand for air travel. Every TV news bulletin (especially in Europe), whether directly related to air transport or not, seemed to be accompanied by a picture of a dirty old Boeing 707 taking off. 

The industry was forced onto the defensive. It reacted late and far from convincingly.

Pressure grew to ‘do’ something, followed by numerous PR initiatives which were often labelled ‘greenwash’ by environmentalists. More importantly, politicians saw the opportunity to intervene, with threats of significant taxation. Plans to build new airport infrastructure ran into increased opposition.

Then everything changed. Where previously the environment had topped the list of people’s concerns, suddenly it barely featured. 

The reason, of course, was the financial crisis of 2008/09 and the subsequent global downturn. Jobs were now the focus of attention and attacking air transport was seen as anti-growth – irrespective of its environmental impact. Even a third runway at Heathrow was back on the political agenda. 

However, what goes around comes around. The financial crisis is a distant memory and most countries have experienced several years of relative prosperity. So guess what? Environmental issues are back in vogue, with aviation again centre stage. 

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