The Government has decided not to support airlines and airports with one, comprehensive package but instead, will review each case individually.
Chief Executive of the Airport Operators Association (AOA), Karen Dee commented, “After having publicly announced a support package for airports and airlines, we’re surprised by where we find ourselves today. Our industry will now have to fight on its own to protect its workforce and its future.”
Dee added that, “With passenger numbers approaching close to zero, UK airports have seen a major drop in revenue. They are taking unprecedented steps to safeguard airport staff and operations through this crisis, which could include in some cases considering shutting down for a period of time.” This, she warned, could have “major impacts for UK communities and businesses.”
Citing how airports continue to operate as gateways for lifeline services to the Highlands and Islands communities and UK Crown Dependencies as well as freight services that ensure supplies arrive in the UK, Dee highlighted how airports also serve as operational bases for UK Search & Rescue services, for offshore oil, gas and wind farms that provide vital energy supplies. However, with UK airports now experiencing a significant decrease in passenger numbers and therefore, a major drop in revenue several have been forced to temporarily close to safeguard employees and operations.
Emphasising that other countries across Europe have recognised the vital role airports play and are rallying to support them. Dee warned that he UK’ Government’s case-by-case approach “will mean that it will not be feasible to provide the support necessary in the coming days”. Subsequently airports will struggle to provide critical services and effect the UK’s recovery from the current epidemic. A comprehensive support package for airlines and airports would have provided financial support and it would have put in place the necessary measures to support airports, ground handling agents, air navigation service providers and others in their operational recovery once the pandemic recedes.
AOA has urged the Government to reconsider and at the very least provide a comprehensive package of support for airports and ground-based services to ensure the successful recovery of the aviation industry. It would increase the flexibility of the employment retention scheme, extend business rate relief, allow VAT and other tax deferrals, suspend regulatory costs where possible and provide relief from airport policing costs.