Does either side have a serious policy on aviation?

Airport: 0. Airline: 0. Airplane: 0.

These, dear reader, are the results of my word search of the Conservative manifesto for commitments in an industry that is hugely important to the UK: aviation. Air travel is also highly controversial, with environmentalists and residents near busy airports united in opposing the expansion, even as many businesses lament capacity problems that are hampering airlines.

No replies came.

To be fair, when I searched the Tory battle plan under ‘Aviation’ I found a single paragraph: ‘We will support the growth and decarbonisation of our aviation sector. We will support UK sustainable aviation fuel through our SAF mandate, an industry-backed income support mechanism and investment in future aviation technology. We will support domestic flights, including under public service obligations, by protecting key routes across the UK, including to islands and remote areas.”

So out of the question is probably the most controversial single aviation issue in the UK: an additional runway at Heathrow Airport. Or reforming air traffic control to allow more direct and less harmful flight routes. Or using the tax system to encourage travel on the most modern and efficient planes.

The Liberal Democrats have much more to say about this most controversial industry. I don’t understand everything the party says, and I disagree with a lot of it, but at least the Lib Dem manifesto makes aviation the subject of real debate and decision, rather than pointless Tory gibberish.

Let me take you through each Liberal Democrat commitment in turn.

“Reform the taxation of international flights to focus on those who fly the most, while reducing costs for ordinary households who take one or two return international flights a year.”

Even more strangely, this means that families traveling first class to New Zealand will see their tax burden fall – provided they limit themselves to just one flight a year, such as business class to Buenos Aires and back. A strange result for a party that wants to promote its pro-ecological activities.

The key is to punish those who fly the most – many of whom are based outside the UK. How exactly will their movements be tracked for tax purposes?

“Requiring airlines to demonstrate the carbon emissions of domestic flights compared to an equivalent rail option when booking.”

Fair play – although knowing how shockingly bad some airlines’ technology is, I don’t envy those responsible for enforcing it.

“Ban on short domestic flights where a direct rail option of less than 2.5 hours for the same journey is available.”

The Libyan Democrats only have London Heathrow-Manchester in their sights. They’ve obviously never tried to travel by rail between these two airports: good luck if the journey takes less than four hours.

Of course they mean central Manchester and central London. But I bet none of the 1,600 passengers on BA flights make that point-to-point journey. The vast majority connect at Heathrow on an international flight.

Break your flight connection and Manchester passengers will take you to Amsterdam on KLM, Paris on Air France or Dublin on Aer Lingus. I understand this is not what the Libyan Democrats want and they would allow connecting passengers to continue on flights. In that case, it becomes a pointless proposition.

“We oppose the expansion of Heathrow, Gatwick, Luton, Stansted or London City airports and any new airport on the Thames Estuary.”

Easy to say. However, “expansion” involves increasing passenger numbers without building additional capacity. Is this included? And where does this unmet demand go? Apart from lovely Southend, which was left off the list for some reason, quite possibly European rivals once again.

Let’s hope Labor will have a serious aviation agenda when its manifesto is finally published. But I won’t bet my money on this prospect.