Brexit is another pressing reason to expand the UK’s airport capacity to ensure the country’s future economy remains strong.
Speaking at an Iata briefing in London, the association’s chief economist Brian Pearce said the UK is the fifth best connected country in the world, behind only the US, China, Japan and India.
In addition, London remains the best connected city in the world, ahead of Shanghai, New York, Los Angeles and Tokyo.
Pearce added that the UK would need to work even harder post-Brexit to ensure it does not lose its standing in the world.
He said: “If the UK is going to have the connections to cities around the world that’s going to drive trade post Brexit, then there’s more that needs to be done.”
Iata regional vice president for Europe Rafael Schvartzman said a key priority for the UK to maintain its standing in the world were increasing airport capacity.
He added this is particularly important in the south east where Heathrow is already at more than 99% full while Gatwick is also approaching full.
Schvartzman again urged the government to cut taxes, saying the UK is the last of 148 countries when it comes to the level of passenger and airport charges and taxes and which particularly impacts the launching of new routes.
He also said the more must be done to improve the visa and border process to ensure it is an easy destination to visit.
He added: “As an island, the UK is uniquely dependent on air transport in order to connect itself to the world.
“It is no coincidence that the UK ranks very highly for the strength of its route network.
“But this network, and the 1.6 million jobs that depend on aviation, cannot be taken for granted. If the industry is not nurtured, as many as 120,000 jobs could be lost.