Airport Operators Association warns of £2.6bn summer losses

In an interview with Airports International, Karen Dee, Chief Executive of the Airport Operators Association, voiced her concerns at the government’s “overly cautious” approach to reopening international travel during a challenging period for UK aviation

Airports are set to lose out on over £2.6 billion in revenue this summer according to the Airport Operators Association (AOA).

A similar loss was recorded between April and September 2020, and with the current green list representing only 1.7% of 2019 passenger numbers, the industry is now facing an even greater shortfall across the whole of this year. The AOA has subsequently criticised the government’s strict traffic light regime, and is calling for urgent changes to be implemented in the next review on June 24.

“The threshold is being set too high for green countries,” said Airport Operators Association Chief Executive Karen Dee, speaking to Airports International via video link. “We think the government is being too cautious and as a result we will start to fall behind our competitors on the continent and the US very quickly, and as an industry we will continue to see a very restricted recovery.

“The whole point of the traffic light system is that green countries are very low risk, whereas amber countries have a higher risk and therefore we impose higher health restrictions. The point is that these higher restrictions mitigate the risk, so we can’t really understand why the government then says not to travel to amber-risk countries.

“They haven’t helped to increase consumer confidence in the system. They ought to be saying that international travel is safe, as long as you comply with the rules that have been put in place. We would like to see the government address our concerns about the cost of testing, and their complexity. We would also like them to recognise the vaccinated states of individuals, like other countries have done.”

The AOA also believes that more direct support is needed from the government in order to protect 1.6m jobs in the UK aviation and tourism industries.

“Airports have suffered blow after blow since the start of the pandemic,” added Dee. “If the Government decides it cannot reopen travel more meaningfully, then they should stand ready to give substantial financial compensation to airports and others in aviation and tourism.

“As airports remain open for critical services, support should include operational costs, such as policing, air traffic and CAA regulatory costs, and extending business rate relief in full until the end of the tax year. Jobs in businesses across the economy that need air connectivity for their success are at risk. The government cannot afford to let those go.”

You can watch the full interview with Karen Dee above.