Aviation unions, Heathrow and ground handler Swissport have joined forces to call for a bespoke package of support to help the sector bounce back after being largely ignored in last week’s budget.

The unions include the British Airline Pilots Association (Balpa), GMB, PCS, Prospect, Unison and Unite.

They want to see a new process of government engagement with both unions and industry figures and the creation of a new tri-partite body to enable this before the reformed travel task force reports on April 12.

The list of demands includes a call for government to meet air navigation charges, a 12-month Air Passenger Duty holiday, removal of double APD charging for domestic passengers and a reduction in the tax for flights using sustainable fuels.

A testing framework should be established that sets out the circumstances under which quarantine could be lifted using a risk-based approach to reopen travel safely.

They argue that aviation sector is a “critical feature” of the UK’s infrastructure, for people, for communities, for services and freight, as well as the wider economy.

“It will play an essential part of the UK’s post-Covid recovery, both in terms of international trade and vital employment opportunities in all regions of the UK,” a joint statement released today (Monday) said.

“It was right that the government took steps to minimise unnecessary travel in order to contain the virus. The downturn in the industry is not a ‘natural’ phenomenon, but as a direct result of the virus and government policy to deal with it.

“It is therefore both imperative and rational that the government step in now to support the industry strongly so that we are in a position to rebuild and maximise the economic opportunity in the recovery period.

“In the face of this crisis the industry urgently needs a unified voice and a clear channel to government.”

The call came against the backdrop of European flight control agency Eurocontrol predicting in January that European flight numbers will not return to 2019 levels until 2026.

Garry Graham, deputy general secretary of Prospect, which represents air traffic controllers, engineers and other specialist aviation staff, said: “Today, unions and employer organisations set out a range of key actions required by the government to support the aviation industry and the UK’s critical aviation infrastructure.

“The aviation sector has been particularly hard hit by the pandemic and the decisions the government has taken to protect public health.

“It is clear in terms of regional connectivity and international travel and trade that the aviation sector will be pivotal to economic growth as we come out of the pandemic.

“Government support is vital to protect jobs and ensure that that the industry has the capacity and capability to rebuild – and rebuild with a focus on environmental sustainability.

“Pre-pandemic the aviation sector was a national and international success story. It is key to our global reach and economic prosperity. It is vital that the government acts now to provide the bespoke support needed.”