The UK Government has put jobs and passengers at the centre of its post-Covid plan for the aviation sector’s recovery.
Launched today by aviation minister Robert Courts, the ‘Flightpath to the Future’ 10-point plan will focus on building back consumer confidence as well as supporting new jobs and the sector’s sustainable recovery to reach net-zero emissions by 2050.
“The pandemic posed an existential threat to the aviation sector,” Courts said today during a visit to Heathrow airport, where he announced the strategy.
“Now recovery has started, we have a chance to build back better than ever before.
“By working closely with the sector to focus on sustainable growth, powered by the latest innovations, we can ensure aviation creates jobs and opportunities across all four nations of the UK.”
Under ‘Flightpath to the Future’, the government will set up a new Aviation Council to include airlines, airports as well as government officials and other stakeholders in industry-related decisions.
The government announced it will also develop a passenger charter to help travellers be aware of their rights when flying.
According to Rocio Concha, director of policy and advocacy at consumer champion Which?, the charter is a welcome addition but there is still much work to be done.
“Poor treatment of passengers by some airlines has become routine – as we saw with carriers ignoring their legal obligations on refunds, rerouting and passenger rights during the pandemic and recent chaos at our airports,” she said.
“What passengers really need is a regulator to enforce the rights they already have.”
Stakeholders said they were willing to work alongside the government.
“We look forward to a laser-like focus from Government on the levers it can pull to make the UK a truly competitive, global aviation hub,” said Airlines UK’s boss Tim Alderslade while travel association ABTA said the new council will help “facilitate an ongoing dialogue.”
Aviation was one of the sector that was hit the hardest by the pandemic, as a recent report by the Airports Operators Association (AOA) reported that airports have lost £10bn in revenue since March 2020.
Despite the overall industry support, analysts’ reactions to the government initiative were mixed.
Travel expert Rob Staines called the plan “revolutionary” adding that it will result in a “in a positive trajectory for the industry and the wider UK economy, encouraging employment and sector growth.
On the other hand, aviation analyst Sally Gethin accused the government of acting as the hero after it abandoned the sector during the pandemic.
“The government abandoned the aviation sector in a crisis, but is now acting the hero coming to the rescue and preaching about ‘learning lessons from the pandemic’.”