The UK’s move to allow fully vaccinated passengers from the EU and US into the UK without quarantine may be to late to save thousands of jobs, pilots’ union Balpa has warned.
The union urged ministers to extend furlough in the sector or face mass lay-offs.
Latest ONS statistics show that 57% of employees in passenger air transport and 51% of those employed by travel agency and tour operators are on furlough, which is formally coming to an end in eight weeks, according to Balpa.
There are more than 3,000 redundant UK pilots alongside tens of thousands of staff from the wider aviation industry, according to the union.
Eurocontrol data from July 8 shows that of the top ten worst affected airports, four are in the UK – Gatwick, Manchester, Heathrow and Stansted.
Balpa acting general secretary Martin Chalk said: “This welcome news may be too late in the summer to protect the tens of thousands of aviation jobs supported by the furlough scheme.
“We are halfway through the only profitable part of the year – summer – and UK travellers still face huge restrictions in the countries that will allow us in, preventing a real recovery.
“We are rapidly heading towards the cliff edge end of furlough in eight weeks’ time and as a result, Balpa is in negotiations with airlines to prevent further job losses.
“The government must extend furlough to support the aviation sector or watch the loss of the jobs, experience and skills that will enable Global Britain to truly take off.”
The plea came as Iata figures for June showed a “very slight” improvement in both international and domestic air travel markets.
Demand remains significantly below pre-Covid-19 levels owing to international travel restrictions.
Total demand for air travel in June was down 60.1% compared to June 2019 – a marginal improvement over the 62.9% decline recorded in May over May 2019.
Iata director general Willie Walsh said: “We are seeing movement in the right direction, particularly in some key domestic markets. But the situation for international travel is nowhere near where we need to be.
“June should be the start of peak season, but airlines were carrying just 20% of 2019 levels. That’s not a recovery, it’s a continuing crisis caused by government inaction.”
He added: “With each passing day the hope of seeing a significant revival in international traffic during the northern hemisphere summer grows fainter.
“Many governments are not following the data or the science to restore the basic freedom of movement.
“Despite growing numbers of vaccinated people and improved testing capacity we are very close to losing another peak summer season on the important transatlantic market.
“And the UK’s flip-flop to reinstate quarantine for vaccinated arrivals from France is the kind of policy development that destroys consumer confidence when it is most needed.”