Aviation leaders expect travel restrictions to remain in place regardless of whether the government introduces a Covid-test regime for arrivals.

Karen Dee, chief executive of the Airport Operators Association (AOA), noted the current lockdown restrictions in England “are planned to be in place until December 2”.

But she said: “As a sector we’re planning for restrictions to continue for some time, possibly with short breaks between.”

Dee told a Westminster Energy, Environment and Transport Forum aviation conference: “What happens next depends on how long it takes to rebuild passenger confidence and that is linked to what the government does.”

She noted the UK “had the largest aviation market in Europe and the third largest in the world” going into the crisis and said: “It will be hugely disappointing if we emerge from this behind our competitors.”

Dee appealed to the government for aid, saying: “We are going to need further financial support.

“As a sector, we don’t think we have had the support some other sectors have had. UK airport losses are running at about £83 million a week.

“The key issue for airports is business rates. They are paying business rates despite being closed in effect. We’ve seen relief on rates in Scotland and Northern Ireland and would like that extended.”

Dee warned: “Our sector has not been given an opportunity to begin its recovery. In the absence of financial support, airports are looking at closure. The situation is simply not sustainable.”

She noted Belfast International Airport announced last week that it will close for several hours a day through November.

Dee said “The news on vaccines is positive, but testing has to be part of the system. Our objective has to be to reduce and ultimately eliminate quarantine.

“We want the government to use lockdown to accelerate preparations so when lockdown ends we have testing in place.”