Transport secretary Grant Shapps has defended the government’s record on providing aid to the aviation and travel sectors, insisting £7.2 billion has so far been made available to aviation alone.

Appearing before the Transport Select Committee of MPs, Shapps acknowledged: “Aviation has been the hardest-hit sector.

“A lot of people in aviation will sadly have lost their jobs. There is no doubt unemployment has risen. It’s only through furlough it has not gone higher.”

But he insisted: “Up to know, we provided £7.2 billion to the aviation sector. That figure has not been mentioned before.

“We provided furlough to 52,000 aviation staff, worth £1.2 billion. We provided the Covid Corporate Financing Facility (CCFF) scheme worth about £3 billion. We provided guarantees for loans through UK export finance of £3.4 billion to airlines – £1.4 billion to easyJet and £2 billion for British Airways. These are large numbers.”

Shapps argued: “We’ve offered loans and seen large companies take those up.”

The transport secretary promised a long-awaited Aviation Recovery Plan would appear “later this year”, but declined to give a date.

The Airport Operators Association (AOA) published its own Airport Recovery Plan this week, with chief executive Karen Dee insisting: “A comprehensive aviation recovery package is needed to see airports though the government-ordered shutdown of aviation.

“This must include targeted financial support as well as a clear pathway to re-start by easing travel restrictions when it is safe to do so, including through testing.”

Dee warned: “This summer must be a success for aviation if airports are to survive.”

She said: “We will be competing fiercely with other countries for the return of airlines and routes. We can’t afford the UK to lag behind.”

The AOA report presents three scenarios for a UK aviation recovery, only the best of which – based on a successful vaccine roll-out – sees traffic recover to overtake the level of 2019 by 2025.

A second scenario, based on a slower recovery of long-haul flying, sees traffic remaining below 2019 levels by 2025, and a third scenario – in which there is a resurgence of the virus and renewed restrictions – sees traffic by 2025 still “well below” 2019 levels.