UK government’s Airport and Ground Operations Support Scheme opens for applications
The scheme will allow commercial airports and ground handlers to apply for up to £8 million each from the UK government to support with fixed costs.
Airports across England are set to receive a boost following the UK government’s financial support scheme opening for applications on 29 January 2021.
Commercial airports and ground handlers will be able to apply for up to £8 million each to support with fixed costs while travel restrictions remain in place. The financial relief will help airports and ground handlers to cover losses on costs including: Airfield operations; contracted services, such as airfield and runway maintenance; and business rate bills.
The investment will help airports and ground handlers, following the introduction of international travel restrictions designed to protect public health and prevent the spread of COVID-19. Recognising the crucial role that the sector plays and its contribution to the UK economy, the scheme will support the aviation industry while the UK government continues to roll out its vaccination programme.
The UK’s Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps, said: “A thriving aviation industry has been central to the success of this country and, while we recognise the testing conditions that airports are currently facing as a result of the pandemic, I believe that the sector will be ready to bounce back once restrictions are lifted. Today’s scheme is another step in the right direction, providing vital support for an industry that is raring to get back to business, once it is safe to do so.”
Robert Courts, Aviation Minister for the UK, said: “The aviation sector plays a crucial role in our economy, contributing £22 billion directly to the UK economy and supporting around half a million jobs. We are well aware of the challenges facing the industry, however, this scheme will give airports and ground handlers in England a boost, helping them continue to prepare for a future when international travel is ready to take off again.”
Airports and ground handlers will be able to apply to the Airport and Ground Operations Support Scheme online and, if successful, should receive their funding by the end of the financial year (5 April 2021). The financial support scheme, which follows the UK government’s extension of the Job Retention Scheme, is open for applications from 29 January until 21 February 2021.
The government has also provided flexibility to airlines to support them during this difficult time – extending the waiver of the ‘80:20’ slot usage rule in time for the summer scheduling season. This removes the requirement for airlines to operate flights at least 80 per cent of the time in order to retain their slots to reflect the current low demand for air travel.
This not only helps airlines’ finances, but reduces the environmental impact of ‘ghost flights’, while ensuring that the slots allocation system works in the interests of air passengers.
The government acknowledges the severe impact that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on the travel sector as a whole and continues to provide support while international travel is paused.
National restrictions for England introduced on 6 January 2021 continue to remain in place, meaning that everyone must stay at home unless travelling for a very limited set of reasons.
Commenting on the Airport and Ground Operations Support Scheme opening for applications, the Airport Operators Association (AOA) Chief Executive, Karen Dee, said: “The Airport and Ground Operations Support Scheme will provide some financial relief for airports in England that have been devastated by the ongoing COVID-19 crisis. Most airports have remained open, sustaining consistent losses for nearly 12 months, in order to facilitate essential freight, emergency service, military and offshore oil, gas and wind flights.”
“When originally announced, the business rate relief was very welcome and came alongside a real hope for an initial recovery through the Test to Release Scheme. However, the pandemic took a turn for the worse and the outlook for 2021 has worsened significantly. With airports effectively closed again by the government’s travel restrictions, much more significant support is now needed. This should see airports through the current crisis to safeguard jobs and ensure that they are fighting fit to boost the UK’s post-pandemic economic recovery,” she added.