Monday 7 September 2020 2:20 pm

Aviation support package 'cannot come soon enough', MPs warn

A group of MPs has warned that the government’s aviation recovery plan “cannot come quick enough” as the stricken industry heads into the winter season weighed down with uncertainty over its future.

This morning, the government revealed that it would unveil its plan to get the UK aviation industry back onto its feet over the autumn.

Read more: UK working on reducing quarantine restrictions, says Matt Hancock

Back in March, as the coronavirus pandemic swept across the world and forced airlines to ground flights, cut services and axe staff, chancellor Rishi Sunak said that the industry would receive sector-specific support from ministers.

Nine months later, however, few details of the support in question have emerged so far, with a consultation on reform of Air Passenger Duty, which many airlines have pushed for, previously announced in March’s budget.

The outline of the plan came in the government’s response to the transport select committee’s paper on the impact of the virus on the UK’s airlines.

Tory MP Huw Merriman, who chairs the committee, welcomed the announcement, but cautioned that the plan “cannot come quick enough for a sector devastated by the impact of coronavirus”.

“We await the Government’s aviation recovery plan and will look carefully at how Government intends to deal with some of the specific points in our report”, he added.

At least 25,000 people have already been made redundant from the UK’s biggest airlines and airports, with British Airways alone cutting 12,000 roles.

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Virgin Atlantic will also cut nearly half of its 10,000 roles, while Easyjet and Ryanair will get rid of 4,500 and 3,000 employees respectively.

Gatwick Airport will cut around a quarter of its 2,400 staff, while Heathrow has just launched a consultancy which could see it lose a quarter of frontline roles.

Merriman singled out the quarantine regime, which currently requires people returning to the UK from the majority of the world to self-isolate for 14 days, as a cause of particular concern.

“The Government’s quarantine regime, coupled by a refusal to endorse airport testing to reduce the quarantine period, adds further barriers to travel”, he said.

MPs will debate the subject in the House of Commons on Thursday. 

Meanwhile, pilots’ union Balpa also said that the industry needed clarity over Brexit, warning that there was no World Trade Organization fall back agreement for aviation.

Read more: Grant Shapps admits quarantine regime ‘confusing’ for travellers

“This industry is in an incredibly fragile state right now. We have already seen some airlines raising red flags to their staff about these issues. Any further damage caused by political posturing or flexing of muscles could be fatal. Enough. We need an agreement and we need it now.” 

The comments came after Boris Johnson set a 15 October deadline for a trade deal to be agreed, saying it was time to walk away if it had not been agreed by then.