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UK airlines urge Chancellor to come to sector’s aid

UK airline chiefs have written to Chancellor Rishi Sunak urging that he sign off “a series of targeted economic support measures” for aviation in light of the latest shutdown of air travel.

Airlines UK chief executive Tim Alderslade has warned in a letter to Sunak that the debt taken on by carriers “is not sustainable much longer [and] more jobs will be at risk without government action to reopen travel or provide additional support”.

The letter points out the UK travel sector “has been hit particularly hard with output down 90% according to recent ONS data, against a 9.9% hit to the wider economy.

“UK airlines alone have announced over 30,000 job cuts, alongside pre-tax losses running into billions.”


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Now the carriers are entering “the vital summer season still unable to trade” due to government restrictions.

The letter tells the Chancellor: “The Global Travel Taskforce promised a restart to international travel from May 17.

“However, despite evidence that supports an expansive green list being in place, no markets of any meaningful size are on the green list, with the removal of Portugal likely to destabilise the sector further and undermine consumer sentiment.

“The government continues to advise against all travel to amber countries – meaning air travel will remain closed substantially at least until July.”

Alderslade warns: “If a meaningful reopening is not possible, targeted economic support will be essential . . . to protect many tens of thousands of jobs.”

The letter points out: “The bulk of the government’s £7.2 billion of support for UK airlines has been taken on as new debt, [with] little over £1 billion in direct furlough support [which] is available to all sectors of the economy, even those that have been able to operate throughout or restart substantially.”

It calls for:

  • 100% furlough support for aviation to the end of the April 2022 and clarity support will not taper off from the end of June as planned.
  • An extension of repayment deadlines for the government-facilitated Covid Corporate Financing Facility (CCFF) and Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CLBILS), and an extension of business rates relief to airlines.
  • A new scheme of ‘restart grants’, based on the surplus capacity airlines are maintaining but not operating relative to 2019 – a form of ‘aircraft furlough’ with grants linked to the impact of restrictions.

The association also requests a meeting with the Chancellor, noting: “The current traffic light framework does not reflect the risk of travel or facilitate safe travel as it should.

“The framework must be adjusted by the checkpoint on June 28 at the latest to provide a pathway for vaccinated people to travel without restriction, lower restrictions for green countries and make the amber category workable.”

Airlines UK members include easyJet, Ryanair, British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, Jet2 and Tui Airways.

More: Airlines add capacity to bring customers home from Portugal

Confusion over tests sees airlines turn passengers away

Airline chiefs demand answers from Shapps on green list decision

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