The Government must aim for a secure and lasting aviation policy after "almost 50 years without effective action", aviation, business and union leaders have said.
The call came in London as the Government put the final touches to its publication on aviation policy, including consultation, due in the next few weeks.
The Government has accepted the need for further runway capacity in south-east England but is still opposed to an extra, third runway at the UK's biggest airport, Heathrow in west London.
This has led the aviation, business and union leaders - members of the Aviation Foundation - to fear for the UK's future economic well-being, particularly as one of the alternative measures, a new Thames Estuary airport, would take years to come to fruition.
Willie Walsh, chief executive of British Airways parent company IAG, said: "We've had years of government inactivity on aviation policy and this consultation must result in a plan of action and the commitment to see it through - not another fudge.
"It's the UK that loses out while around the world they will rub their hands with glee as we stumble along our path of inactivity".
John Longworth, director-general of the British Chambers of Commerce, said: "The Government must stop tiptoeing around on aviation because of short-term political considerations. Unless politicians grasp the nettle and make some tough decisions, both our export and inward investment potential will suffer."
Earlier this year Prime Minister David Cameron said the Government was "not blind" to the need for more runways.
A Department for Transport spokesman said: "The Government wants aviation to grow, but to be able to do so it must be able to play its part in delivering our environmental goals and protecting the quality of life of local communities.
"This summer we will consult on a new aviation policy framework which will set out our overall aviation strategy. Alongside this, we will issue a call for evidence on maintaining the UK's aviation hub status. The Government's position on a third runway at Heathrow has not changed."