Regional Gateway editor Chloë Greenbank summarises the latest happenings across airports serving business, regional and low-fare routes.

It’s difficult to know what to write in this week’s newsletter without reflecting on how much the world has changed in the last couple of days, let alone weeks or months. Just two weeks ago I travelled from Mexico to Ethiopia via London for the 5th Aviation Africa summit. Now, with much of Europe in lockdown, the prospect of any international and in some cases domestic travel is unlikely for the foreseeable future. There is no doubt that the COVID-19 outbreak is the greatest threat the global aviation sector has ever faced.

The rapid reduction in demand for air travel in recent weeks has led to airlines suspending services, in some cases across their entire network, and airports (regardless of their size) are also faced with having to enforce annual leave, temporary staff reductions and even the possibility of closure.

In a statement earlier this week, Manchester Airports Group (MAG) CEO, Charlie Cornish, said: “This temporary and dramatic downturn requires us to act now to protect our position at this crucial time. This will include enforced annual leave, reduced working hours, temporary pay cuts and temporary lay-offs.” He added that MAG’s executive team has also taken a pay cut, and recruitment and capital expenditure plans have been frozen. “We are doing what we need to do in the face of an unpredictable and fast-moving situation.” It’s a similar situation for airports around the globe.

Cornish also warned that, “Aviation is essential to some of our most important industries and in forging trading relationships… Government needs to take decisive action now to make clear its total and unwavering support for airports, airlines and other travel companies. The UK depends on air travel to support its economy. The Government must stand behind the aviation industry to make sure it is still there and ready to help the economy recover once this is all over.”

These are unpredictable times for aviation and businesses in general. But there is a sense of solidarity among many stakeholders. Luxaviation Group has launched the European Business Aviation Solidarity Initiative (EBASI). The group will support the European business aviation industry by sharing its expertise in procurement, purchasing power and finance resources with business aviation companies for free, allowing them to concentrate on the core operations of their business.

Meanwhile, and in recognition of the fact that airport operators remain first and foremost concerned with protecting the health and welfare of travellers but are also businesses in their own right, Airports Council International (ACI) World has proposed a global policy response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“There is a general sense across the aviation community that we are all in this together as this crisis continues to unfold,” said ACI World Director General, Angela Gittens. “As the economic policy response is formulated, however, it is important to note that no measure or relief package should disproportionately benefit one sector at the expense of another…. The aviation industry and governments should approach the prospects for recovery strategically, pragmatically, and in partnership,” she concluded.

“Unprecedented times” is a phrase we will continue to hear repeatedly during this period, but so to is “we are all in this together”.

The Regional Gateway team is committed to standing alongside the global airport community and will continue to report on news concerning air transport hubs around the world, as well as highlighting the hard work of our industry colleagues throughout this challenging period. So please don’t hesitate to get in touch if you’ve got a story you’d like to share.

The editor’s comment is published weekly as an accompaniment to the Regional Gateway e-newsletter. If you do not currently receive our email updates, you can subscribe here.

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