UK aviation needs emergency plan after de facto border closure

UK national lockdown, travel bans, blanket quarantine and compulsory testing deterred people from traveling in January

UK aviation needs emergency plan after de facto border closure
  • UK airline passenger volumes down 89% in January 2021
  • UK air cargo volume was down 21% in January 2021
  • UK aviation sector needs targeted government support to ensure its survival

UK passenger volumes down 89% in January as the national lockdown, travel bans, blanket quarantine and compulsory testing deterred people from traveling.

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The additional inconvenience and cost of quarantine hotels, day2/day 8 testing requirements on top of other measures mean that the UK’s borders are effectively closed. We are working with the Government to try to ensure this complex scheme is workable. 

Fewer long-haul passenger flights meant that cargo volume was down 21% in January – a key indicator of the damage that travel restrictions are having on the UK’s exports and supply chain. 

UK exporters, service industry, inbound tourism and education that rely on aviation need to see a “flight plan” to reopen Britain’s borders safely as part of the Prime Minister’s roadmap to recovery on 22nd February.  

The government also needs to provide targeted support to ensure the aviation sector can survive the current crisis, including full business rates relief and an extension to the furlough scheme.

We are pleased that the CAA has acknowledged the need to adjust Heathrow‘s regulatory settlement to ensure the airport continues to deliver for consumers. The previous settlement could not have accounted for a crisis of this scale. An appropriate adjustment now would support the regulatory model, increase long-term investment in the UK and lower long-term prices for consumers. The CAA must act in March after its consultation.  

Heathrow CEO, John Holland-Kaye, said: “We support the Government in measures required to protect public health. But these additional requirements are essentially a border closure. That will inevitably delay the country’s recovery and hurt the UK’s supply chains. We need to see the flight plan for the safe restart of international travel as part of the Prime Minister’s roadmap on 22 February. We also need to preserve our vital aviation infrastructure to support economic recovery when it comes and make Global Britain a reality. That means the Chancellor must use next month’s budget to deliver the minimum help that aviation needs with 100% business rates relief and an extension of the furlough scheme.”

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