Aviation leaders hit out at a lack of support for the sector in Wednesday’s Budget, slamming the chancellor’s failure to acknowledge one of the sectors worst-hit by the pandemic in his speech.

The extension of the furlough scheme was given a broad welcome, but was caveated with warnings that it would not be sufficient to prevent significant retraction without further support.

Karen Dee, chief executive of the Airport Operators Association, said: “Aviation has been the hardest-hit sector in the pandemic, but the Budget is blind to the impact of the near-complete shutdown of international travel.

“While the extensions of the Job Retention Scheme and airport business rates relief are very welcome, they are not nearly enough given the scale of Covid-19’s impact. Combined with the long‑haul APD increase, which is a very damaging blow to an industry already on its knees, this is not a Budget for a global Britain.”

She added: “The Scottish government and Northern Ireland Executive have already taken steps to continue crisis support for airports, including full-year rates relief in Scotland. The UK government must work urgently with devolved administrations to set out a four-nation Aviation Recovery Package of long-term financial and policy support to boost the recovery of the UK’s aviation connectivity.”

John Holland-Kaye, chief executive of Heathrow airport, said: “The chancellor talks about protecting jobs and livelihoods, fixing the public finances and laying the foundations for the future economy, and yet he continues to ignore the UK’s aviation sector. He clearly doesn’t understand that all three depend on a strong aviation sector delivering the trade, tourism and investment that power vast parts of the British economy.

“Failing to even mention aviation, let alone provide full business rates relief for airports in today’s Budget, is a missed opportunity to ensure the sector can play a key role in the country’s economic recovery. The absence of any meaningful support from the government in the face of tough restrictions which have ground travel to a halt will weaken the sector and limit UK growth at the time it is needed most.”

Tim Alderslade, chief executive of Airlines UK, welcomed the furlough extension, but added: “Ultimately, it is the reopening of international travel that will ensure we still have an aviation sector but we are clear that without a summer season airlines will require a bespoke support package that goes beyond loans.

“That said, there are things the government can be doing to support the restart and the continued absence of the promised Treasury consultation into APD – a full 12 months since its announcement by the Chancellor – is a source of much frustration and bewilderment.”

Brian Strutton, general secretary of pilots’ union Balpa, said: “The chancellor said not one single word about aviation in his budget. I am utterly dismayed that he can ignore this industry which is clearly going to be the last to recover from Covid. While there was sector-specific money for non-essential retail, hospitality, leisure, gyms, personal care, arts, culture and the housing sector, there was not one word of backing for our vital sector.

“This is a massive slap in the face for the industry that has supported repatriations, brought in vital supplies and faced never ending changes to restrictions and rules and a total shutdown as a result of government policy.”

He added: “Mr Sunak has totally abandoned aviation and failed to acknowledge just how difficult times are for the sector right now. This budget could push many airlines further in to a death spiral and cost even more jobs.

“We must now look to the vital Global Taskforce report on April 12 to give our aviation industry certainty and security and help us to plan a way though this crisis.”

To read industry reaction to the Budget in full, click here.