The UK Government next spring will issue a "scoping document" outlining ideas for its new long-term aviation strategy policy, which will be adopted in 2013.
The document will be opened up to stakeholder discussion before a draft aviation policy is issued in early 2012, UK minister of state for aviation Theresa Villiers told the New Direction for Aviation Policy conference in London yesterday.
"We want this to be a very open process," says Villiers.
Additional runways at London's Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted airports have been ruled out by the new coalition Government, a decision Villiers insists will not be overturned.
"We were elected on the basis of not allowing these runways to be built," says Villiers, adding that she is not in the habit of "tearing up election manifestos".
She adds: "Numbers of runways are not the be-all and end-all in determining prosperity. I firmly believe there are ways for Heathrow to continue to be a flourishing airport."
Pressed by delegate concerns that no third runway at Heathrow could lead to a loss of hub traffic to rival European airports such as Paris Charles de Gaulle and Amsterdam Schiphol, Villiers responds: "Obviously Heathrow is a hugely important international gateway for us."
But she accuses the aviation lobby of being "hung up" on the need for additional runways, adding that "there is so much we can do to make our airports better without making them bigger".
Early priorities for the recently-assembled South East Airports Task Force include "looking at ways to make terminal capacity more efficient", finding "workable solutions" to improve border control and "changing the way aviation security is delivered".
Villiers also mentions the possibility of replacing price caps at regulated airports and giving the UK civil aviation authority the "power to be a more responsive regulator".