LONDON – The Airport Operators Association (AOA) has written a letter to UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson for what is being dubbed as urgent support for the aviation sector.

AOA’s letter establishes that the measures brought in by Mr. Johnson amounts to the effective closure of aviation.

This also includes whether airports have to implement full-scale closures and additional job losses down the line. An example of this is with Manchester Airport closing Terminal 2 due to low demand.

Photo: Financial Times

AOA’s Demands

The letter placed a list of eight demands that the AOA wants from the UK government, in its belief that this will improve the situation for the industry.

  • Business rates relief for English airports for 12 months, bringing them into line with their Northern Irish and Scottish counterparts, and the hospitality and retail sectors. AOA has also called on the Welsh government to take similar action for Welsh airports
  • Extending corporate fiscal support measures, or a new equivalent of them, on a sectoral basis. This would include support with employment costs beyond the end of the Job Retention Scheme, but also general finance measures, such as the CCFF and CBILs
  • Funding the aviation sector’s regulator, the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), for the 2020/2021 period
  • Reversing the decision to remove tax-free shopping from airports
  • Temporary suspension of Air Passenger Duty, thus incentivizing air connectivity in the recovery phase
  • Working with industry to agree on a funding solution for the airspace modernization program
  • Assistance with police costs, reflecting its fixed nature despite reduced passenger numbers
  • Urgent progress with testing and for it to be in place and ready to reduce the need for quarantine when breaks in restrictions allow travel. 
Photo: Metro

AOA CEO’s Comments

Expanding on this point was Karen Dee, who is the CEO of the AOA who expressed the need for support.

“Airports cannot remain open indefinitely when passenger numbers and revenue is non-existent. They need urgent financial support and for testing to be up and running by the beginning of December 2020 in preparation for when international travel resumes.”

“That our airports have weathered the greatest challenge they have ever faced without the levels of support afforded to other sectors or by other European nations has left our sector on its knees, with airports losing money at a staggering rate.”

“This is simply unsustainable, and it is imperative the government understands the brutal reality our airports face and brings forward a package of support measures without any further delays,”

“Without support, our aviation sector faces an uncertain future which will hold back our national economic recovery and leave the government’s Global Britain plans in tatters.” 

Photo: The Telegraph

Not Just The AOA Calling for Support

It is not just the AOA that is calling for support from the Government.

The Manchester Airports Group CEO Charlie Cornish claims urgent government support is needed for the industry, criticizing the government for neglecting the industry.

Back in October, the Virgin Atlantic (VS) CEO Shai Weiss stated that up to 500,000 UK jobs are at risk without action into saving them.

On top of the pandemic, there is the impending doom of the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union, with negotiations still ongoing to prevent EU-UK grounded flights.

Photo: Airline Ratings

Looking Ahead

With more and more institutions calling for such government support, the pressure will eventually build until it forces the government into the corner of support.

Tens of thousands of jobs have been sacrificed already, especially with provisions around the Job Retention Scheme not being airtight, allowing airlines and airports to lay-off staff even with the funding in place to keep them onboard.

It will be interesting to see what the UK Government will do and whether the moves made will be quick enough not just to deal with the damage from COVID, but the potential future damage from BREXIT and beyond.

Photo: The New York Times

Featured Image: London Heathrow Airport’s Air Traffic Control Tower. Photo Credit: Heathrow Airport