Wednesday 3 March 2021 3:57 pm

Budget 2021: Aviation firms accuse Sunak of ignoring sector

The aviation industry has reacted furiously to today’s Budget, accusing Chancellor Rishi Sunak of ignoring the sector, which has been battered by the pandemic.

Aviation firms had been lobbying hard for sector-specific relief for the industry, which has been in a tailspin for an entire year due to wide-ranging travel restrictions.

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Although the sector will benefit from the extension of the furlough scheme until the end of September, airlines had been hoping for a waiver from air passenger duty for at least a year.

Trade bodies such as pilots union Balpa and the Airport Operators’ Association (AOA) said that the government was “blind” to their pain.

AOA boss Karen Dee said: “Aviation has been the hardest-hit sector in the pandemic, but the Budget is blind to the impact of the near-complete shutdown of international travel.

“While the extensions of the Job Retention Scheme and airport business rates relief are very welcome, they are not nearly enough given the scale of COVID-19’s impact.

“Combined with the long‑haul APD increase, which is a very damaging blow to an industry already on its knees, this is not a Budget for a global Britain.”

The boss of the Heathrow Airport John Holland-Kaye said: “The Chancellor talks about protecting jobs and livelihoods, fixing the public finances and laying the foundations for the future economy, and yet he continues to ignore the UK’s aviation sector.

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“He clearly doesn’t understand that all three depend on a strong aviation sector delivering the trade, tourism and investment that power vast parts of the British economy.

“Failing to even mention aviation, let alone provide full business rates relief for airports in today’s Budget, is a missed opportunity to ensure the sector can play a key role in the country’s economic recovery.”

Balpa general secretary Brian Strutton, meanwhile, described the decision as a “slap in the face” for the sector.

The Chancellor said not one single word about aviation in his budget. I am utterly dismayed that he can ignore this industry which is clearly going to be the last to recover from Covid.

“While there was sector-specific money for non-essential retail, hospitality, leisure, gyms, personal care, arts, culture and the housing sector, there was not one word of backing for our vital sector.

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“This is a massive slap in the face for the industry that has supported repatriations, brought in vital supplies and faced never ending changes to restrictions and rules and a total shutdown as a result of Government policy.”

He warned that the decision risked pushing more airlines to the wall.