The industry faces a real risk that this summer will be as bad or worse than summer 2020, airports have warned as the government takes an overly cautious approach to reopening international travel.
Airports alone stand to lose at least another £2.6 billion in revenue in summer 2021.
The message came from the Airport Operators Association with the current green list for non quarantine travel representing only 1.7% of 2019 passenger numbers.
Significantly more countries were on the travel corridor list last year compared to what is expected for summer 2021 under the current traffic-light system. Thanks to the larger numbers of countries with a travel corridor, passenger numbers peaked at 22% of 2019 levels in August 2020.
Even with the more liberal travel approach in 2020, UK airports lost out on £2.6 billion revenue between April to September.
With passenger numbers expected to be at best similar but most likely worse, airports stand to lose at least another similar amount in revenue again this year.
AOA chief executive Karen Dee said: “The government’s overly cautious approach to reopening travel has real-world consequences for the 1.6 million jobs in the UK aviation and tourism industries that rely on aviation having a meaningful restart.
“Unless the government makes a meaningful restart of aviation possible by extending the green list at the next review, moving to rapid and affordable tests for returning travellers and following the examples of the EU and the US by reducing restrictions on fully vaccinated passengers, aviation is in for an extremely difficult summer.
“Airports have suffered blow after blow since the start of the pandemic. If the government decides it cannot reopen travel more meaningfully, then they should stand ready to give substantial financial compensation to airports and others in aviation and tourism.
“As airports remain open for critical services, support should include operational costs, such as policing, air traffic and CAA regulatory costs, and extending business rate relief in full until the end of the tax year.
“With the rest of the economy having a real opportunity to return to some normality, jobs in businesses across the economy that need air connectivity for their success are at risk. The government cannot afford to let those go.”