The volume of air travel in the UK fluctuates from year to year depending on economic factors and terrorist incidents etc but there is no denying that the long term trend is extremely resilient and tends to exceed 4.5 % p.a. We can see the effects almost daily with airports screaming for extra capacity and the airlines queuing up to order new aircraft from the major manufacturers like Airbus and Boeing.
The hunger for air travel partly reflects the reduction in prices caused by the budget operators like Ryanair and Easyjet but demographic factors are also playing a major contributory role. People are much more mobile these days and choosing to live and work in countries other than where they were born. This not only means that they use air travel more but friends and relatives who are visiting these exiles will usually have to fly to make their journey.
In an effort to keep the lid on long term growth in air passenger numbers, the government is endeavouring to get more people to travel by train which inevitably necessitates the development of high – speed rail.
Experience on the Continent confirms that, if rail travel can compete on price and travelling times, people will tend to use it instead of flying with all the extra hassle it entails. This is particularly true of short- haul routes. The 2 hour Cologne to Frankfurt train service is now so popular that the former air service has been dropped altogether. This obviously frees up capacity for air traffic to and from longer haul destinations where a rail competitor might be either inappropriate or simply impossible.
Despite new initiatives such as the promotion of high speed rail, it seems little can stop the air travel juggernaut rolling ever onward. This is an important consideration for young people looking for the security of employment in a long term growth industry. Nor are we just talking here about the thousands who work directly for airports and the airlines themselves. Youngsters might also consider less obvious opportunities linked directly with the growth in air travel. The Civil Aviation Authority is paid by the airlines to regulate the industry and employs several thousand in a wide variety of aviation jobs. Similarly, the long term growth of aircraft sales is very good news for engine manufacturers like Rolls Royce and other component makers like GKN who are well represented in the UK.