The UK’s airlines have again called for the government to implement rescue measures to protect the industry against the impact of coronavirus, which has decimated the sector.
The plea comes despite chancellor Rishi Sunak yesterday telling firms that state aid would only be considered as a “last resort” after they had exhausted other means of raising funds.
Now, Sky News first reported, the industry has written back asking for the government to waive regulatory and air traffic control payments, as well as obligations to give passengers cash refunds for cancelled flights.
In a letter from industry body Airlines UK seen by City A.M., the government is urged to suspend “new payments of Air Passenger Duty for six months once the current crisis ends in order to stimulate demand”.
It also calls for the government to underwrite payments to the Civil Aviation Authority and to air traffic controllers for the rest of the year.
Finally, it argues that airlines should be able to give passengers vouchers rather than cash refunds, and if refunds are necessary, to let airlines defer them until after the crisis ends.
Chief executive Tim Alderslade wrote: “We strongly believe that all such reasonable, temporary measures must be considered at his time, and that those outlined above would have a material benefit in supporting the overall health of the UK airline sector, accelerating recovery and retaining a competitive aviation market once we return to normality”.
The letter came after Prime Minister Boris Johnson confirmed in parliament that the government was still in talks with the aviation sector:
Speaking at PMQs, he said: “We have certainly not washed our hands of any sector of UK business or industry. We are in regular contact with the aviation sector, doing everything that we can to help,”
“There are … contacts going on as we speak,” he added.
Also today London City Airport said it would suspend all commercial and private flights from tonight until the end of April following Johnson’s instructions that people should stay at home and stop travelling.
Yesterday global airline body the International Air Transport Association doubled its previous estimates for the financial damage coronavirus is expected to do to the industry.
Based on a three-month shutdown, the world’s airlines will lose $252bn (£213m) in passenger revenue.