Over the past 50 years, the growth and development of the air transport industry has closely followed the evolution of the global economy. Aviation supports regional economic growth and competitiveness by providing high speed accessibility over long distances for business travel and for the carriage of high value goods. A number of studies have illustrated the link between air transport and economic development. Although some of the assumptions made or figures quoted have been subject to debate and challenge, it is clear that aviation has had a major impact upon economic development throughout the world with some regions becoming highly reliant upon this mode of transport. This is especially the case for more geographically remote regions (such as the NW of England) and for economies that have been built upon aviation based tourism.
The value of air transport cannot, however, be measured in terms of job and wealth creation alone. It plays a much wider role in society, supporting travel for leisure and personal fulfillment, facilitating international sporting and cultural events and enabling greater mobility for employment, influencing patterns of migration. Air transport has had a major influence upon the development of multicultural societies enabling the maintenance of social and family networks in an increasingly disparate society and enabling expatriate communities to enjoy a ‘taste of home’. Other benefits include increasing opportunities for international travel for education and research, increasing consumer choice and more generally enabling residents of remote and island communities to enjoy greater participation in the wider society (this being a matter of social inclusion).
The evolution of the Inter-governmental alliances such as the European Community, SADC, MERCOSUR, ASEAN, is dependent to a significant degree upon the development of aviation networks. In its Common Transport policy, the European Commission acknowledges the vital role played by transport in the integration and realization of the EU.
These socio-economic benefits are, however, at risk of being constrained as a result of the global and local environmental impacts associated with the industry and this underpins the challenges being addressed by the Centre for Air Transport and the Environment.
Research by CATE has focused on the inter-relationship between aviation, social and economic development, the associated environmental impacts and how these are likely to affect development in the future (particularly that associated with the international tourism industry).
Daley, B. Dimitriou, D. and Thomas, C.S. 2007. ‘The impact of environmental issues upon future patterns of aviation related tourism and economic competitiveness.’ Aviation and tourism: Implications for leisure travel (eds: Graham, Papatheodorou and Forsyth (Ashgate).
Dimitriou D. and Thomas C.S. 2008. ‘Environmental constraints on airport development in tourist areas, 5th International Conference on Transportation’. Research in Greece, Organized by Hellenic Institute of Transportation Engineers, Hellenic Institute of Transports and National University of Athens, May 2008, Conference proceedings, p. 467-478.
Dimitriou, D. and Thomas, C.S. 2007. “The link between airport growth, aviation environmental impacts and tourism on Greek islands”, International Conference: Competitiveness and Complementarity of Transport Modes, Perspectives for the Development of Intermodal Transports, 10-12 May 2007, Chios, available online http://www.stt.aegean.gr/trans_conf/Conf_home.htm
Hooper, P., Raper, D., Thomas, C., (2010) Air Transport in an Environmentally Constrained World. Journal of Airport Management, Vol 5(1) pp 4-6
Hume, K.I., Hooper, P.D. and Thomas, C.S. 2004. ‘Airport Growth and Regional Development.’ Proceedings of the Royal Aeronautical Society / American Institute of Aviation Acoustics Conference, Manchester.
Thomas C.S. with Shaw, S. 2004. ‘Social and Cultural Perspectives on the Growth of Air Travel: A Case Study of International Students’. Journal of Sustainable Tourism.