Aviation’s Travel Day of Action takes off

Thousands of airline and airport staff are uniting to support the Travel Day of Action, taking part in organised rallies across the UK and joining the online calls for action.

They are using the campaign slogans #speakupfortravel and #traveldayofaction on social media to amplify their message to the government that the sector needs support.

Karen Dee, Airport Operators Association chief executive 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 and travel are in for an extremely difficult summer.

“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.”

Staff at Manchester, Stansted and East Midlands airports – all part of the Manchester Airports Group – are posting social media images at times flights would have taken off on June 23, 2019.

Today, just 124 aircraft will depart those three airports, compared to 651 two years ago.

At Manchester airport, a peaceful protest will take place outside Terminal Three, organised by the Unite Union, while at East Midlands Airport a photo opportunity is taking place of passengers getting ready to go on holiday to nowhere, relaxing on sun loungers in the summer clothes.

Colleagues from Stansted will join a march on Westminster with others from across the industry.

Charlie Cornish, MAG Group chief executive, said: “Aviation has been the sector hardest hit by the pandemic, yet government does not seem to appreciate its economic value or trust its own system for the restart of international travel.

“Despite holding back the recovery of an industry that supports more than one million jobs, and generates billions of pounds of value, there has been nowhere near the level of support offered to other parts of the economy.

“The whole of the travel industry recognises the need to protect public health and has supported every measure government has required in response to Covid-19. However, with so much at stake, it is simply unacceptable that government refuses to explain why it is not opening up travel to many popular destinations.”

The day of action comes after MAG launched a legal challenge – supported by several major airlines – against the government’s lack of transparency when making decisions about the countries categorised as red, amber or green in its traffic light system.

More: LIVE: Reports from Travel Day of Action

Gatwick airport is asking the government to capitalise on the vaccine rollout by safely reopening travel this summer and provide tailored financial support to businesses.

Stewart Wingate, Gatwick’s chief executive, said: “Given the extra time the recent delay to the lifting of lockdown allows, we urge the government to use the time to put a simple, effective and internationally coordinated system in place so that those who have been double vaccinated can travel abroad without the need for expensive tests.

“We also need more countries regularly added to the green list if the airport and our supply chains and businesses are to rebuild and protect as many jobs as possible.

“Gatwick has been a major driver for the local and regional economy for several decades, as well as supporting the wider UK economy during that time.”

Before the pandemic, Gatwick contributed £2.7 billion to regional gross domestic product, supporting one in 12 jobs across the region.

Passenger numbers plunged by 78% in 2020, resulting in staff levels being reduced by more than 40%, with up to 70% of remaining staff placed on furlough.

Staff at Luton airport are also joining in the campaign, and Alberto Martin, chief executive of Luton airport, said: “Whilst we understand the cautious approach taken by the government, it is not in line with the recommendations put forward by the Global Travel Taskforce to allow the safe and gradual restart of overseas travel. We would therefore urge them to re-consider this approach and acknowledge the massive impact this is having on both the travel industry and consumer confidence more broadly.”

Southend airport created a video with staff members saying “speak up for travel” as part of the lobbying campaign.

So far this year, the airport has had just over 500 passengers compared to 650,000 during the same period in 2019.

Doncaster Sheffield airport is also adding its voice to the Travel Day of Action, asking the government for clarity and transparency on the return to safe international travel in time for Summer.

Robert Hough, chairman of parent company Peel Airports, said: “Regional airports are vital not only for getting passengers on their well-earned summer holidays to spend time with their families.

“They also have an important economic role to play in the regions they serve too, providing jobs and acting as a catalyst for economic growth.”

Doncaster Sheffield airport is responsible for an annual contribution of £67 million to the wider economy, a contribution that has the potential to grow to £6.5 billion by 2037.

Royal Aeronautical Society chief executive Sir Brian Burridge said: “The Covid pandemic has already had a devastating effect on the aviation industry with little respite in sight and, with the prospect of a ‘lost summer’, further damage is inevitable. This, of course, has also had a serious knock-on effect throughout the aerospace manufacturing sector, not least in adversely affecting the supply chains and, ultimately, the whole economy.

“It is increasingly clear that the vital relief represented by a more active summer season which is so important for airlines, airports and air navigation service providers will not materialise universally as a result of continued travel restrictions. Taken together, the aviation and tourism trade associations have an extremely strong case to make for direct government intervention and we support that position.

Edinburgh airport tweeted: “Today is #TravelDayOfAction and we are proud to stand with our colleagues in the travel and aviation industry to #SpeakUpForTravel. We are calling on the Scottish government to safely reopen travel in order to save jobs and support the industry.”

And Belfast airport also tweeted its support: “Travel plays a vital role in everyone’s lives – bringing families and friends together, connecting businesses and offering hardworking people a well-deserved break. @Grantshapps Govt needs to allow international travel to return safely this summer #speakupfortravel”.

Liverpool airport has been adding to the voices on Twitter with messages such as: “Govt needs to capitalise on the great progress made by the UK’s vaccination rollout by allowing vaccinated people to travel to low risk countries this summer without the need to test or quarantine. This will get the travel industry moving & boost the UK economy #speakupfortravel”.

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