The UK government has announced that it will finally open a financial support scheme for the country’s airports following the closure of all air travel corridors. Aviation minister Robert Courts said that the scheme, which will provide grants of up to £8m (US$10.8m) to cover costs such as business rates, would soon open for applications, having been discussed since November 2020.
The minister commented, “Closing our travel corridors will help prevent the spread of new Covid variants in the UK. I know the impact this will have on the aviation sector, so to help limit this I am announcing that our scheme to provide support to airports and ground operations will open this month. The Airport and Ground Operations Support Scheme will help airports reduce their costs and we will be aiming to provide grants before the end of this financial year.”
On the announcement of new quarantine rules and that all travel corridors will be suspended, Airport Operators Association chief executive Karen Dee highlighted the plight of airport operators: “The closure of travel corridors is understandable from a public health perspective, but this adds to the current near-complete shutdown of the UK’s airports. This is making worse a devastating situation for UK airports and communities relying on the jobs and economic benefits that aviation brings.
“The UK and devolved governments now need to set out as a matter of extreme urgency how they will support airports through this deepening crisis. Business rate support, announced last year and in England not yet even open to applications, is no longer sufficient to ensure airports can weather the difficult months ahead.
“Airports are currently keeping their infrastructure open to support vital and critical services, such as post, freight, emergency services, military and coastguard flights, as well as to help keep the lights on in the UK through supporting flights to offshore oil, gas and wind operations.
“Airports are doing so while running on empty – there is only so long they can run on fumes before having to close temporarily to preserve their business for the future. Government needs to help cover airports’ operational costs by, for example, urgently providing relief from regulatory, policing, air traffic and business rates costs in the current and the coming tax year.”