Staying safe in the sky - let's keep NATS public
If you fly away somewhere, on your holidays or for business, it's the National Air Traffic Services (NATS) that keeps you safe in the sky.
NATS is the UK’s leading provider of air traffic control services. Each year it keeps 220 million passengers safe and handles 2.2 million flights in UK airspace. You've probably used the services of NATS without realising it, just by stepping onto a plane.
In 2015, the Chancellor said he wanted to privatise the government's 49% stake in NATS. We haven't heard any more since then so we don't know if NATS is still under threat.
Keeping you safe in the sky
“We hold millions of lives in our hands every single day. Forecasting, planning, adapting and delivering. We’re trusted by governments, enterprise, the military and passengers alike. Large scale data will help us become more proactive, more responsive, evolving from air traffic control to dynamic air traffic management…A future that’s more efficient, quieter, faster, cleaner.” National Air Traffic Services video ‘Guardians of the sky’
NATS was created in 1962 to bring military and civilian air traffic control under the same organisation. We can be proud of NATS - it's a world leader which sells services to airports and airlines in 30 countries around the world. Our polling shows 60% of us want NATS to be in public ownership.
Making a profit for all of us
NATS is hugely profitable. It has made around £87.5 million a year for the past ten years, and half of that comes straight back to the public purse. In 2014-15 profits were even higher at £111 million.
If the government sells off our 49% stake in NATS, we could raise £300 million - but we'd lose out on millions in profits forever more. The graph below from our report 'Future profits vs short term cash' shows that we'll be worse off in just seven years if NATS is privatised.
Privatisation has been hovering
NATS was partly privatised in 1998, with 51% going to private sector ownership. Today it is partly owned by the Airline Group (42%), London Heathrow (4%) and NATS staff (5%). We own 49% through our government - this is a 'golden share' meaning the government can outvote other owners if necessary.
In 2012, plans to privatise the rest of NATS were abandoned by former transport minister Justine Greening, because of 'strategic concerns' that an influential stake could go to German air traffic control, Deutsche Flugsicherung (DFS) who would then be able to control our skies.
Are we cruising into danger?
In 2015 George Osborne announced new plans to sell off public assets. In the Autumn of that year he confirmed the government's plan to sell off its 49% stake in NATS. Since then we haven't heard anything further, so we don't know if the government still wants to sell off this national treasure.
85 MPs signed our Early Day Motion 689 calling on the government to keep NATS public.