Transport secretary Grant Shapps is urging airports and ground handlers to apply for grants under the government’s new Airport Support Scheme.

He tweeted: “The Airport Support Scheme is now LIVE! Airports and ground handlers across England can apply for up to £8 million of financial support from today – apply here!”

The Airport and Ground Operations Support Scheme (AGOSS) has been set up to support commercial airports and ground handlers in England “in recognition of their fixed costs and the impacts of Covid-19 on their revenue”.

However, a host of travel agencies replied to his tweet, asking for tailored support for agents and tour operators and highlighting how the sector is struggling after almost a year of travel restrictions.

Homeworker Graham Bishop (GoCruise & Travel) said: “Hey Buddy, can you let me know when The Travel Agent support scheme is live? Asking for the 1000s of agents that are to potentially lose their jobs and businesses.”

Ashley Quint (Travel Time World) tweeted succinctly: “And the travel industry?”

Horizon Direct asked: “How about travel agents? We exist and pay taxes too.”

Other travel professionals also highlighted their plight, such as coach firm Heathside Travel, which asked: “When will you address the coach industry? If airlines are essential then coaches must be? Heathrow has 80 coach bays and has around 350 coach pick-ups daily (normally). That’s just one airport. Wake up Grant before it’s too late!”

Applicants for the new scheme must apply by February 21 and demonstrate the business’s coronavirus losses for the 2020-2021 financial year.

Funds can be used for activities and costs such as security, air traffic control, fire services, maintenance, insurance premiums and business rates.

Aviation and maritime minister Robert Courts MP tweeted today (January 29): “The Airport and Ground Operations Support Scheme is now open for applications, which will give a boost to airports and ground handlers across England.”

However, when he unveiled details of the scheme earlier this month, the government was urged to extend support to the wider travel industry.

The scheme was announced in November alongside the Test to Release scheme but had no set start date at that point.