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Keywords:

  • air transport;
  • economic development;
  • equity;
  • policy;
  • social development;
  • sustainable development

Abstract

Several authoritative studies indicate that air transport makes a strong, positive contribution to economic development – a contribution that far outweighs the environmental and social costs of aviation. This article investigates this benign view, analysing the assumptions upon which it is based and arguing that the relationship between air transport and economic benefits may be more complex than is commonly held. In particular, the benefits of air transport services may be highly unevenly distributed, with particular groups benefiting from air transport provision to a far greater extent than others. Hence this article poses the question of whether air transport is an effective tool for sustainable development, or whether it simply reinforces existing patterns of economic interest and political hegemony. Based on analysis of a range of key documents, some criteria are presented that could potentially be used to indicate how air transport may most effectively be used to promote sustainable development. Copyright © 2008 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd and ERP Environment.