UK airports boss warns airports and airlines need to act quickly to secure their future if urgent support is not provided
The chief executive of the UK’s largest airport group has warned of tough decisions for parts of the UK airport industry, who may be forced to “act quickly to secure their future” after the UK government announced an almost complete ban on international travel.
In an article written after the ban was confirmed on Saturday, October 31, MAG CEO Charlie Cornish warned urgent government support was needed to prevent further large-scale job losses across an industry already impacted by “chaotic changes in policy” throughout the pandemic.
Cornish argued the Prime Minister should offer an “urgent package of support” to aviation, pointing to dedicated support given to sectors like retail, hospitality and the rail industry, while aviation has been left to fend for itself.
He also bemoaned the fact that the industry learned of the new travel ban on social media, writing, “Twitter is not the place where you want to find out that the Government is effectively shutting down the business you run.”
Concerning the government’s attitude to aviation, Cornish said, “The fact this development was not deemed worthy of mention in the PM’s address is symbolic of the way government has neglected UK aviation … from day one of this pandemic.”
Manchester Airports Group (MAG) owns and operates Manchester, London Stansted and East Midlands airports, which have remained open throughout the pandemic. It has begun recently a consultation proposing that up to 892 jobs at its airports will be sadly made redundant, and has consistently called for more targeted support for aviation since the first lockdown decimated its passenger base in March.
Cornish argued support should include relief from business rates – as enjoyed by airports in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland – and policing costs, as well as further support with employee costs and reform of passenger taxes to help UK airports win back routes lost during the pandemic.
“Our sector was one of the first hit by this pandemic and one of the hardest hit. Promises of specific support in recognition of this predicament were publicly made by government but never materialized,” he wrote. “Tens of thousands of jobs have already been lost across the industry as a result of the situation we find ourselves in. An urgent package of support must materialize. That must include relief from business rates and policing costs.”
Without support, Cornish believes the sustainability of parts of the sector will be in question and “UK airports and airlines will need to decide quickly what they must do to secure their future until the situation improves”.
Read Charlie Cornish’s open letter here.