The COVID-19 crisis has brought international aviation to a near-standstill, in the worst drop-off in traffic levels the industry has ever witnessed. Today, the Airport Operators Association (AOA) is calling for the UK Government to take robust action to support the UK’s beleaguered aviation sector, in the wake of large-scale expected job losses at airport campuses across the country.
AOA analysis of its member airports suggests that up to 20,000 jobs are now at risk at airport operators, as the full effects of the pandemic on the global airline community begin to be felt. Future airline scheduling and passenger numbers are forecasted to be significantly lower year-on-year. The effect the downturn in traffic at UK airports has on the businesses and wider community around the sites cannot be underestimated. Airports operators only directly employ a small proportion of people working at an airport and many other jobs are supported by activity linked to UK airports. Given this multiplier effect, the total potential job losses expected across all UK airports and their local business communities is likely to exceeds 110,000.
Figures from IATA estimate that traffic, as of June 2020, will be reduced by 154 million passengers, denying UK airports a large portion of their expected revenues and forcing cost-cutting measures on operators.
In order to help protect jobs and support the sector through this unprecedented crisis, the AOA recommends the Government takes the following action:
- Relief from Business Rates payments for 2020-2021 in line with the relief granted to the hospitality and retail sectors, aiding companies’ cashflow
- Guarantee to support, in some form, UK airports with their employment costs beyond the October end of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.
- Fund the aviation sector’s regulator, the Civil Aviation Authority, for the 2020/2021 charging period.
- Suspend Air Passenger Duty (APD) for at least six months to stimulate increased airline activity.
- Review and repeal the current damaging quarantine policy and replace it with a risk-based proportionate approach which includes additional public health measures for passengers arriving from high-risk countries.
Chief Executive of the Airport Operators Association Karen Dee said:
“Commercial aviation in the UK has weathered the worst three months in its history, and is now presented with an arbitrary quarantine policy, which has unnecessarily stifled the sector’s restart and recovery plans. The Government should look to revoke the blanket quarantine measure as soon as possible and institute a measured approach which is proportionate to the risk present in destination countries”
“We face considerable challenges in recovering from the devastating impacts of COVID-19 and we are calling on the Government to do much more and act with urgency to protect jobs in the aviation sector, many of which are highly-skilled.”
“These jobs figures clearly show that a key component of the UK’s infrastructure is on its knees, with no relief to the current crisis expected. Government needs to recognise the immense crisis facing the country’s airport communities and take action to support UK aviation and protect livelihoods”