UK airports may be forced to shut down within weeks due to COVID-19

The CEO of AOA has warned that UK airports may be forced to shut down within weeks due to COVID-19 if the UK government doesn’t provide immediate support.

COVID-19 travel easements welcome step forward

As a result of the recent coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, the aviation industry has suffered drastically. Karen Dee, Chief Executive of the Airport Operators Association (AOA), has said that the pandemic may have a particularly negative impact on airports across the UK.

Commenting on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on UK airports, Dee said: “Governments across the world are supporting their national aviation industries, as many parts of the global travel industry have come to a halt. As some airlines call on the UK government to act similarly, we are clear that airports will shut down in weeks unless urgent action is taken to support the industry.”

She continued: “The UK’s airports are critical national infrastructure, fulfilling a vital public service, and are on the frontline of the COVID-19 outbreak. It is essential that airport businesses remain operating and are able to weather this storm, so that they can provide the connectivity which drives growth, employment and prosperity after the crisis has abated.”

Dee highlighted the decrease in passenger numbers, emphasising the need for measures to be implemented by the UK government to ensure operations are able to continue in the future: “With travel bans proliferating and passengers being unwilling to fly, traffic through airports has plummeted. UK airports are taking immediate and drastic action to cut costs and are scaling back investments in light of the situation. Due to the fixed costs of operating airports, the government will need to provide additional support. The government must step in to see airports across the four home nations through the current COVID-19 crisis, and make an unequivocal commitment to doing whatever it takes to sustain the UK aviation industry.”

Following her call for government to take action, Dee has suggested measures that should be implemented immediately:

  • Be prepared to provide/organise emergency financing as a measure of last resort
  • Require banks to temporarily not enforce financial performance-based banking covenants
  • Suspend business rates and other local government rates and taxes on airports
  • Deferral of payments of all VAT, corporation tax and other taxes for the duration of global flight restrictions
  • Share the employment cost of airport staff laid off throughout the COVID-19 crisis
  • Suspend regulatory costs on airports where possible
  • Indefinitely postpone major increases to those regulatory costs, such as the Next Generation Security Checkpoint
  • Provide relief from airport policing costs.

Dee concluded: “For the sake of the UK economy, it is essential for the UK government to catch-up to its peers across the continent and provide support to the sector and the wider economy through financing, guarantees, grants and tax relief. Finally, to help kickstart aviation again once the pandemic is retreating, the government should suspend Air Passenger Duty for six months.”

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