The government’s financial support scheme for airports has today opened to applications but was swiftly slammed by Heathrow and fellow operators.
Under the scheme, airports and baggage handlers can apply for up to £8m in business rates relief.
Transport secretary Grant Shapps announced that the support was now available via Twitter.
But the boss of Heathrow Airport, which has a business rates bill of around £120m, said that the support was “wholly inadequate and discriminatory”.
John Holland-Kaye said: “The Airport Support Scheme is wholly inadequate and discriminatory – the “relief” will cover less than a month of Heathrow’s business rates bill and is less money than we are burning through in just two days.
“Meanwhile, the Treasury has yet to explain why it has handed out £3 billion of rates relief to retail businesses that didn’t need it while ignoring the worsening crisis facing our industry.”
The government announced the scheme back in November when international travel was banned under the second national lockdown.
Southend Airport boss Glyn Jones welcomed the help, but indicated that it was now inadequet.
“With our airport effectively closed again by the Government’s travel restrictions, much more significant support is now needed to help us through the current crisis.
“This is essential to safeguard jobs and ensure London Southend is ready to play its part in boosting London and South Essex’s post-pandemic and post-Brexit economic recovery,” Jones added.
Despite a brief respite over the winter, ministers have now doubled down on travel restrictions, with all the UK’s quarantine-free “travel corridors” suspended.
In addition, incoming travellers from over 30 countries now have to quarantine in hotels for 10 days due to fears over new variants of the coronavirus.
Holland-Kaye went on: “Aviation is the lifeblood of the modern economy – our European rivals get it, which is why they’ve already pumped billions into their aviation sector to get them through the crisis.
“The UK Government’s ambitions for Global Britain and levelling-up will only happen if aviation survives – now we need 100% business rates relief, an extension to the furlough scheme and a roadmap to reopening borders safely.”