UK government opens Airport and Ground Operations Support scheme

The AOA feels this is not enough to ensure economic recovery and job security within the industry

The Airport and Ground Operations Support scheme opened for applications on Friday (January 29), becoming the UK government’s latest initiative to provide financial aid to the aviation sector.

The new venture means that airports and ground handlers could be entitled to up to £8m each, which is designed to help with fixed costs whilst travel restrictions are in place.

The government hopes that by applying for the monetary aid, those within the sector will be able to cover losses on costs such as airfield operations, airfield and runway maintenance and business rate bills.

Heathrow Airport
Photo Ian S

“We are well aware of the challenges facing the industry, however, this scheme will give airports and ground handlers in England a boost, helping them continue to prepare for a future when international travel is ready to take off again,” said Robert Courts, aviation minister.

The government hopes the new support scheme will help keep the industry afloat following the introduction of the latest international travel ban that was implemented on January 15.

Flexibility has also been granted to airlines as another means of support by extending the 80:20 slot usage rule in time for the summer scheduling season. This means that airlines will not have to operate flights 80% of the time in order to keep their slots, as the demand for air travel is incredibly low.

Grant Sharps, transport secretary, believes the scheme is “another step in the right direction”, whilst reiterating that “the sector will be ready to bounce back once restrictions are lifted”.

However, Karen Dee the chief executive of the Airport Operators Association (AOA), says the initiative will only provide “some financial relief” and believes the government have to do more if the industry is to make any form of recovery.

“When originally announced, the business rate relief was very welcome and came alongside a real hope for an initial recovery through the Test-to-Release Scheme. However, the pandemic took a turn for the worse and the outlook for 2021 has worsened significantly.

“With airports effectively closed again by the government’s travel restrictions, much more significant support is now needed. This should see airports through the current crisis to safeguard jobs and ensure they are fighting fit to boost the UK’s post-pandemic economic recovery.”

Those eligible for the funding will be able to apply through the government website until February 21. If successful, funding should be received by the end of the financial year.