The AOA, Airlines UK and the ADS Group have released a joint statement calling for the UK government to amend its COVID-19 aviation business support measures.
As the COVID-19 crisis continues to have an unprecedented impact on the aviation industry, UK airlines have been forced to make the difficult decision to ground hundreds of aircraft and UK airports are operating at minimal capacity in order to limit the financial impact of the pandemic.
In addition, requests for ticket refunds are outnumbering new flight bookings, the UK tourism industry lies dormant as visitors rightly stay at home and aerospace manufacturing faces challenges to sustain jobs and cashflow for the duration of this crisis.
The dramatic impacts of COVID-19 on the aviation sector are likely only the beginning – passenger demand is expected to return only slowly, as consumers regain their confidence to travel and travel restrictions, as well as border closures, are lifted.
As a result, the Airport Operators Association (AOA), Airlines UK and the ADS Group are jointly calling for the UK government to extend its support schemes before companies face difficult decisions affecting their workforce.
Ensuring that the aviation and aerospace sectors can quickly and fully recover when restrictions are lifted will subsequently support the wider recovery in UK trade that is vital to limiting the economic cost of the COVID-19 crisis.
Not only are 1.6 million jobs and £92 billion in gross domestic product (GDP) dependent on the aviation, aerospace and the tourism sectors, but aviation is also one of the engines of the UK economy, enabling other businesses to reach customers, trade goods and build new relationships.
The AOA, Airlines UK and ADS have welcomed the steps taken so far by the UK government to support businesses. However, they have stated that further urgent steps and better coordinated actions are urgently needed to support the industry’s, and the UK’s, future recovery.
The associations have called on the UK government to:
- Extend the business rate relief measures already taken for retail, leisure and hospitality to include aviation, as the Scottish government has done
- Swiftly extend the Job Retention Scheme beyond May and allow for more flexibility, enabling UK aviation and aerospace businesses to avoid unwanted redundancies, safeguard staff’s regulatory compliance and scale up operations in the coming months
- Make financial support schemes available to all businesses, amend the current caps on lending to boost accessibility and be better suited to the needs of the aviation sector, as well as ensure flexibility is built into the support to ensure it can be repaid in line with the sector’s recovery
- Work internationally to ensure a coordinated approach is taken to the lifting of travel restrictions and other related measures to boost consumer confidence.
Other countries are acting decisively, with unprecedented financial support for airports and airlines in the U.S., Australia, France, Norway and many other countries. Without clear steps being made by the UK government, including those outlined above, the UK aviation, aerospace and travel sectors are at risk of being left behind in the recovery.
With the UK’s ambition to become a global actor after leaving the EU, aviation will be more important than ever to realising the government’s long-term goals. Equally, the UK’s communities and visitors will see their fortunes restored more rapidly if aviation can quickly recover from the current pandemic. The UK government has an opportunity to make both those things possible, if it acts decisively now.