Britain’s aviation industry will renew its bid for emergency government aid, urging ministers to agree “better coordinated” measures to prevent the loss of tens of thousands of manufacturing and service sector jobs.
Sky News understands that a joint statement by ADS, which represents aerospace manufacturers, Airlines UK and the Airport Operators’ Association to be released in the coming days will call for an extension – both in duration and scope – of the Treasury’s range of financial support schemes.
The trade associations, whose members include Rolls-Royce Holdings, Heathrow Airport and British Airways, will argue that while “other countries are acting decisively, with unprecedented financial support for airports and airlines in the US, Australia, France, Norway and many other countries… the UK aviation, aerospace and travel sectors are at risk of being left behind in the recovery”.
According to a copy of their joint statement, the bodies want ministers to: extend the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme beyond the end of May; include the aviation sector in the business rates exemption given to companies in the hospitality and retail sectors; and increase the flexibility of lending programmes unveiled for thousands of businesses.
They are also seeking to ensure that the government works with its counterparts “to ensure a coordinated approach is taken to the lifting of travel restrictions and other related measures to boost consumer confidence”.
The aviation industry has been decimated by the coronavirus pandemic, resulting in hundreds of billions of dollars of lost revenue and leaving many companies on the brink of financial ruin.
ACI Europe, a trade association, forecast this week that overall passenger numbers could be down by 35% across Europe in 2020, with some industry experts predicting that the UK figure could be as high as 50%.
Some carriers, including Virgin Atlantic Airways, are now in talks with the government about direct taxpayer support.
“Requests for ticket refunds are outnumbering new flight bookings, our 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 bodies will say.
Not only are 1.6 million jobs and £92bn in GDP dependent on aviation, aerospace and the tourism sectors, aviation is also one of the engines of the UK economy, enabling other businesses to reach customers, trade goods and build new relationships.”
Rishi Sunak, the chancellor, wrote to airlines last month to say that “bespoke” state aid would be available “only as a last resort”.
Industry figures have expressed disappointment with the Treasury’s stance and at the Foreign Office’s recent advice to UK citizens that there would be “indefinite” guidance against overseas travel.