The quartet of companies which dominate ground operations at Britain’s airports are begging the Treasury for a 12-month business rates holiday as they stand on the brink of financial ruin.
Sky News has seen a letter sent by executives from Dnata, Menzies Aviation, Swissport and WFS to Rishi Sunak, the chancellor, which warns that “the collapse of the UK aviation system has already begun”.
The four bosses said they had seen their revenue fall by 95% during the last week, and urged Mr Sunak to waive the sector’s business rates for 2020 “to allow us to reduce our cash costs and keep essential aviation operations running”.
Between them, the groups employed 25,000 people before the coronavirus outbreak – with more than 10,000 laid off so far as the aviation industry has been engulfed by the pandemic.
Companies such as Swissport provide services to airlines, including refuelling, baggage handling and departure gate operations.
The executives expressed their disappointment that they had been unable to secure a meeting with the Treasury to outline the crisis facing the industry.
They added that their businesses had been unfairly treated by the government when it earmarked specific sectors for rates relief.
“If the hospitality sector has been granted such business rate relief, we strongly believe that the same business rates relief should apply to aviation to significantly help critical cash flow at this time.
“After all, our businesses’ personnel have been officially designated key workers, something the hospitality sector teams have not.”
A rates holiday for the ground handlers was required, they added, because they collectively operate from more than 1000 “rateable and now virtually unused properties, many of which support our cargo operations, passenger handling, baggage halls, fuel delivery services and maintenance facilities”.
The four companies are understood to pay between £3m and £6m in business rates annually.