The AOA and facilities within the UK have told Airports International about their concerns with the new government initiative
The UK government is expected to announce plans later this week to introduce a hotel quarantine period for those entering the country in an attempt to prevent the spread of new COVID-19 variants.
According to those within the industry, the UK aviation sector has once again been left in limbo and more support is desperately needed if they are expected to continue operations.
On January 15, all travel corridors between the UK and countries around the world were closed in an attempt to try to control the virus. When this was announced, the Airport Operations Association (AOA) claimed it was another loss for the industry, as airports and airlines were expected to continue with their priority operations whilst “running on empty”.
Karen Dee, AOA chief executive and Tim Alderslade, Airlines UK chief executive, collectively believe the government need to address support concerns immediately.
“Less than two weeks ago the UK introduced some of the highest levels of restrictions in the world. Flights today are already banned from countries with high infection rates. Pre-departure controls mean anyone arriving in the UK has already tested negative. There is further quarantine upon arrival and the option of a second test,” the joint statement released to Airports International explained.
“The impact of further measures would be catastrophic. They will impact vital freight and PPE supplies and jeopardise tens of thousands of jobs and the many businesses that depend on aviation. The government cannot achieve its Global Britain aspirations without airlines and airports. The Chancellor recognised the need for support given the pandemic’s impact on aviation in March 2020. The time has now come for warm words to be turned into a bespoke support package that can get us through this prolonged crisis.”
Airports across the UK have cooperated with government guidelines across the course of the pandemic. However, some are losing patience with the rollout of new initiatives which appear to have limited concern for the survival of the industry.
Glyn Jones, CEO of London Southend Airport, claims the plans for hotel isolation would add “further costs and more complications for passengers arriving in the UK”.
Jones reiterates that airports across the UK have implemented stringent safety measures and regimes in a bid to protect passengers and staff alike. However, he believes the latest proposal “implies yet another cost burden for both airports and travellers at a time when the government and our industry needs to work together.
“The sector has been hit incredibly hard by the pandemic and we are nearing 12 months of severe disruption. Specific aviation support could be provided by an Air Passenger Duty holiday and funding of the very large, fixed cost burden that airports carry, including for example, but not limited to business rates.”
Job security is also a factor that is currently worrying many within the aviation world. A spokesperson from London Heathrow Airport said: “We support measures that will bring the COVID-19 crisis to an end once and for all. However, we must be clear that a hotel quarantine puts more pressure on jobs right across the UK now, and in future, will make it harder to kickstart Britain’s economic recovery.”
Last week, plans to open the Airport and Ground Operations Support Scheme later this month were revealed. John Holland-Kaye, the London hub’s CEO, said that this was “simply not enough” when the opening of the funding applications was initially announced.
The spokesperson from Heathrow echoed Holland-Kaye’s concerns: “It is completely unacceptable that an industry worst hit has watched on as others, fortunate to experience a boom in profits and no restrictions, have been afforded unnecessary financial support as we remain ignored.”
“As a start, this support must include the extension of the Jobs Retention Scheme and full 100% business rates relief for all airports. We now need action rather than empty promises before more people pay for this crisis with their jobs and livelihoods,” they concluded.