With public finances straitened and consumer spending depressed, all eyes are on the private sector to blaze a trail back to prosperity. The onus is on creating a strong, re-balanced economy, powered by exports of goods and services.

Successive policymakers have searched for the interventions that will allow the UK to maintain and improve its competitive position. In this story, the quality and extent of the UK’s transport network emerges as a continual theme among experts and businesses alike.

All modes of transport serve business, but it is air transport that businesses rely on to get their employees and goods quickly to distant markets. Identifying the link between air travel and economic performance is easy. What’s harder is to understand how that link works, and how the Government must design aviation policy, if it is to play its full part in ensuring economic recovery. These are the questions that this report deals with. Despite stating it is not anti-aviation, in the last year we have seen the Government abandon an Air Transport White Paper widely applauded for its long-term clarity, with Ministers citing their cancelling of its key projects as an early success.

But 2010 also saw an announcement that aviation policy was to be fundamentally re-drawn. The Government now has a simple choice. It can set a bold, long-term aviation policy that serves our businesses and boosts economic recovery. Or it can mark time and meander its way to a more anodyne result.

UK businesses do not believe we have the luxury of such time. On aviation policy the Government must act now. And in this report we make five key recommendations on what that action should entail.