Coronavirus: UK airports declare £4bn emergency after lockdown

An industry body says the scale of the losses facing airports should act as a “wake-up call” to the government for targeted aid.

Coronavirus: UK airports declare £4bn emergency after lockdown 1
The travel industry says the threat of local lockdowns and quarantines is delaying any kind of recovery

UK airports have declared a funding emergency amid the continuing coronavirus pandemic, warning that 110,000 jobs are at risk from a collapse in global travel.

The Airport Operators Association (AOA) renewed its call for government support as it warned that a revenue hit of almost £2bn during the first four months of the COVID-19 crisis would likely double over the course of the year.

One industry source told Sky News there was “intense frustration” within the sector that early signals of Treasury aid had failed to materialise and the UK was now clearly lagging behind other European countries in protecting aviation jobs.

The AOA argued that a strong industry was crucial to the country’s economic recovery as airlines scale back fleets and services – unable to see a recovery in passenger numbers for several years.

They fell by as much as 99% at the height of the lockdown with Heathrow, the country’s largest airport, reporting earlier this month that customer numbers in June were still 95% down on the same month last year.

The AOA said the pandemic had placed 20,000 airport jobs at risk, along with 90,000 others within their supply chains.

It renewed its call for targeted support – in line with aid given to the hospitality and retail sectors – through relief from business rates in the current financial year.

Its list of demands also included a suspension of Air Passenger Duty to help boost demand.

AOA chief executive, Karen Dee, said it was clear that there would be no quick recovery for its members after the worst four months commercial aviation had ever experienced.

“Whilst we have seen passengers begin to return, passenger numbers are not expected to reach pre-COVID levels for a considerable period and airports will continue to face challenges and pressures unimaginable six months ago.

“Airports have done everything in their power to weather the storm and have done so without the specific government support afforded to other sectors.

“That our airports lost close to £2bn during the lockdown should serve as a wake-up call to government and lead them to finally grasp the severity of the challenge and threat that the pandemic has posed and continues to pose to the sector.”

Sky News invited the Treasury to respond to the industry’s plea but was yet to receive a statement.

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