UK airports call for urgent business rates relief

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The UK’s Airports Operators Association (AOA) has called for urgent business rates relief in line with that afforded to the country’s hospitality, leisure and retail sectors.

The call follows the unprecedented collapse in passenger numbers induced by Covid-19, which has brought aviation to a near-standstill, with airports still having to pay over £500,000 (US$625,000) a day in businesses rates.

The organization is calling for a year-long relief from business rates for all airports in England and Wales to come into effect as soon as practical. It further added that HM Treasury should extend the same kind of relief that has been afforded to other sectors of the economy, it said it is clear that local authorities, faced with their own financial issues, are not able to support UK airports on their own. This measure would bring airports in England and Wales in line with their Scottish and Northern Irish counterparts. 

According to a survey of its members, the AOA found the following:

· Airports in England have paid over £70m (US$87m) in business rates since the start of lockdown in March despite passenger numbers being down by around 97%;
· The annual cost of business rates for airports in England is over £210m (US$263m); and
· In Scotland and Northern Ireland, airports have been given substantial domestic rates relief for a year from the respective devolved authorities.

Chief Executive of the Airport Operators Association Karen Dee explained the pressing nature of the matter: “Commercial aviation in the UK has weathered the worst four months in its history and faces a lengthy recovery with passenger numbers not expected to reach pre-Covid levels for a considerable period.

“Our industry is on its knees and the government needs to do much more to support airports in recovering from Covid-19. While many businesses have benefited from business rates relief, airports in England and Wales have been forgotten and this is constraining their ability to survive through continued restrictions imposed on their operations, and to help power the economic recovery of the country.

“That our airports have been paying £500,000 in business rates every day during the lockdown reflects that the government simply has not grasped the severity of the challenge and threat that the pandemic has posed and continues to pose to our sector.”

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