Airports have issued a fresh plea to Boris Johnson for “urgent support” due to the effective closure of aviation due to the second Covid lockdown in England.
The Airport Operators Association has written to the prime minister warning of closures, restrictions on operating hours and further job cuts following eight months of financial losses since the first lockdown in March.
Manchester airport has been forced to shift all operations into a single terminal from November 11 as it prepares for a “significant decrease” in passenger numbers.
Flights will only operate from Terminal One with the closure of the airport’s other two terminals “until further notice”.
AOA chief executive Karen Dee, speaking ahead of the trade body’s annual conference today (Monday), said: “Airports cannot remain open indefinitely when passenger numbers and revenue is non-existent.
“They need urgent financial support and for testing to be up and running by the beginning of December in preparation for when international travel resumes.
“That our airports have weathered the greatest challenge they have ever faced without the levels of support afforded to other sectors or by other European nations has left our sector on its knees, with airports losing money at a staggering rate.
“This is simply unsustainable, and it is imperative the government understands the brutal reality our airports face and brings forward a package of support measures without any further delays.
“Without support our aviation sector faces an uncertain future which will hold back our national economic recovery and leave the government’s Global Britain plans in tatters.”
Transport secretary Grant Shapps, shadow transport secretary Jim McMahon and Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham are due to address the conference.
The AOA has appealed for a package of support measures to help airports through the winter, including:
- Business rates relief for airports in England and Wales for 12 months, bringing them into line with counterparts in Northern Ireland and Scotland, and the hospitality and retail sectors.
- Extending corporate fiscal support measures, or a new equivalent of them, on a “sectoral basis” including support with employment costs beyond the end of the Job Retention Scheme but also general finance measures.
- Reversing the decision to remove tax-free shopping from airports.
- Temporary suspension of Air Passenger Duty to incentivise air connectivity in the recovery phase.
- Working with industry to agree a funding solution for the airspace modernisation programme.
- Assistance with police costs reflecting its fixed nature despite reduced passenger numbers.
- Urgent progress with testing and for it to be in place and ready to reduce the need for quarantine when breaks in restrictions allow travel.
Manchester airport managing director Karen Smart said: “The coronavirus pandemic poses an unprecedented challenge to our airport and to our wider industry, but we are determined to provide passengers with the best possible service in the circumstances, ensuring both their safety and comfort.
“When it became clear that England would enter a second national lockdown, we moved quickly to put an appropriate plan of action in place, which will safeguard the continued operation of our airport during these uncertain times. This includes closing Terminal Three from Wednesday 11 November until further notice.
“Changing our operation like this is not straightforward and I would like to thank our dedicated teams for their hard work in preparing for this scenario.
“We will keep this decision under constant review and communicate any further changes to our customers.
“I would encourage all passengers who will be travelling through Manchester airport this month to ensure that they are familiar with all of the guidance in place, both from the UK government and at their destination.”