The UK has a buoyant aviation industry with a larger number of passengers passing through its airports than any other European nation. Yet far from being mature, UK aviation continues to benefit from high rates of growth year-on-year. The emerging importance of the low-cost business model has only served to fuel this trend, with air fares falling rapidly as low-cost airlines take advantage of the liberalised market. Although, in the UK, only 50% of the adult population flew in the previous twelve months, this proportion has grown in recent years.1 Furthermore, many individuals are choosing to fly more frequently, no longer viewing air travel as a luxury, but more often a means to an end. The fact that the UK’s aviation market is arguably more mature than many, suggests this global industry is set to continue to grow rapidly as more nations industrialise. Indeed evidence for this is clear in China, where passenger numbers have been growing on average at 15% per year since 1990.2

A successful aviation industry is often viewed as a core element of economic prosperity, generating jobs and investment, and as a key to globalisation. However, contemporary industrialised societies are facing a contradiction through their simultaneous desire for mobility powered by fossil fuels, and a high-quality natural environment. Climate change is proving an intractable problem. Whilst for many sectors, reducing emissions to levels commensurate with avoiding ‘dangerous climate change’ appears to be viable, it is considerably more challenging for aviation given current rates of growth and limited annual fuel-efficiency improvements.