The UK aviation industry is the ‘hardest hit’ in Europe by restrictions on international travel, according to the British Airline Pilots Association (Balpa).
The union released its analysis of data from Eurocontrol – the European air traffic agency –ahead of the national Travel Day of Action on Wednesday (June 23).
It said the number of flights into and out of the UK has collapsed by 73%, compared to 2019.
Gatwick and Manchester airports are the worst affected in Europe, with Heathrow and Stansted close behind.
The International Air Transport Association (Iata) warns that 860,000 jobs in UK aviation travel and tourism have been lost or are on furlough and are at risk of being lost.
Foreign holidays as normal this summer “was never going to be the case”,
The union’s analysis came as UK justice secretary Robert Buckland defended the government’s Covid travel policy. He told Sky that “significant trade-offs” have had to be made to ensure cases are kept down, with international travel restricted to “prevent inadvertent spread of new variants of concern”.
Buckland said ministers will continue to be “guided by the evidence” when it comes to travelling abroad.
“Inevitably, in a situation as unprecedented and demanding as this, there are going to have to be significant trade-offs and it’s clear that holidays as normal – or travel as normal – was never going to be the case, bearing in mind the rise of particular variants, most notably the Delta variant,” the justice secretary said.
Brian Strutton, Balpa general secretary, said: “It’s official. The UK aviation industry is the hardest hit in Europe, caused by the UK government’s ludicrously cautious restrictions on international travel.
“Hapless ministers give all the appearance of deliberately attacking aviation and tormenting the public with their mixed messages over summer holidays.
“Balpa is demanding that the UK government gets its act together and opens the US routes and European holiday travel destinations that it has blocked with no published evidence at all.
“There is no time to hide behind taskforces and reviews. This week pilots will be calling on the government to act now to save jobs by taking a transparent, evidence-based approach to travel restrictions, extending the furlough scheme and helping airlines and airports weather this storm through direct financial support.”
The union highlighted how the government said it has given £7 billion in support to UK aviation but pointed out that most of this is either standard furlough payments or loans which the industry will struggle to pay back with virtually no income.
“By contrast, European and US governments have given direct financial support to their airlines which the UK government promised but has failed to deliver,” said Balpa.
Balpa pilots will join colleagues from across the aviation and travel industry to take their message to MPs in Westminster, and MSPs in Holyrood, as part of the nationwide Travel Day of Action on Wednesday.
Pilots will also join action at Heathrow, Bristol, Edinburgh and Manchester airports.
They are calling for the government to allow international travel to return safely and in a “risk-managed way” by “properly implementing” the Global Travel Taskforce’s plan for a transparent traffic-light system, by expanding the green list in line with the evidence and making restrictions more proportionate, while keeping a strong red list to guard against variants.
They also want a package of tailored financial support, including extension of furlough support, recognising that the travel sector’s ability to trade and generate income is much slower than first anticipated and more gradual than for businesses in the domestic economy. ·
Organised by the Save Future Travel Coalition, the day will also see virtual and local events for those unable to travel.
Europe’s top 10 states by percentage of daily arrivals/departures on June 9 2020, compared to the same time in 2019: