AOA warns UK airports could ‘shut within weeks’

Heathrow Airport Terminal File Image

The Airport Operators Association (AOA) has warned that UK could be shut within weeks if the UK Government doesn’t introduce measures to help them cope with the massive drop in passenger numbers as a result of the Coronavirus Pandemic.

Karen Dee, Chief Executive of AOA said: “Governments across the world are supporting their national aviation industries, as many parts of the global travel industry have come to a halt. As some airlines call on the UK Government to act similarly, we are clear that airports will shut down in weeks unless urgent action is taken to support the industry.

“The UK’s airports are critical national infrastructure, fulfilling a vital public service, and are on the frontline of the COVID-19 outbreak. It is essential that airport businesses remain operating and are able to weather this storm, so that they can provide the connectivity which drives growth, employment and prosperity after the crisis has abated.

Heathrow is already understood to be considering temporarily shutting down Terminals 2 & 4 and Manchester could also see two terminals close.

Smaller airports such as Birmingham, Bristol and Newcastle could be closed altogether.

Ms Dee added: “With travel bans proliferating and passengers being unwilling to fly, traffic through airports has plummeted. UK airports are taking immediate and drastic action to cut costs and are scaling back investments in light of the situation. Due to the fixed costs of operating airports, the Government will need to provide additional support.

“The Government must step in to see airports across the four home nations through the current crisis, and make an unequivocal commitment to doing whatever it takes to sustain the UK aviation industry.”

The range of measures being asked for by the AOA include:

  • Be prepared to provide/organise emergency financing as a measure of last resort.
  • Require banks to temporarily not enforce financial performance-based banking covenants.
  • Suspend business rates and other government and local government rates and taxes on airports.
  • Deferral of payments of all VAT, corporation tax and other taxes for the duration of global flight restrictions.
  • Share the employment cost of airport staff laid off throughout the crisis.
  • Suspend regulatory costs on airports where possible.
  • Indefinitely postpone major increases to those regulatory costs, such as the Next Generation Security Checkpoint.
  • Provide relief from airport policing costs.

It also asks the government to suspend Air Passenger Duty for Six Months after the Pandemic is over in order to “kickstart” air travel.

Heathrow Airport
Heathrow Airport

The Chancellor has now announced a range of support for UK Business including the Aviation Industry and in response, Ms Dee said: “The Chancellor’s unambiguous statement of support for UK businesses is welcome and measures such as the unlimited loans to support businesses manage cashflows provide reassurance.

“However, with passenger numbers declining rapidly in recent days, airports want to hear the details of the specific support package for the aviation industry as soon as possible. We urge the Chancellor to be as bold in this aviation support package as he was on some of the measures announced today to ensure airports can reassure staff and passengers that they will be there to provide the connectivity the UK needs after the COVID-19 pandemic has receded.”

Heathrow Airport said earlier this week that “The impact of Coronavirus is a significant challenge for the global aviation industry including Heathrow and our colleagues, airlines, suppliers and fellow airports. We are taking immediate steps to safeguard the financial resilience of our business including the protection of jobs, whilst providing relief to our airline partners and wider industry colleagues. This is a quickly evolving situation and we stand ready to take any further and necessary measures to support our colleagues and industry partners as this situation develops.”

Adding that it was taking immediate steps to safeguard the financial resilience of Heathrow Airport.

About Nick Harding 1963 Articles
Nick is the senior reporter and editor at UK Aviation News as well as working freelance elsewhere. He has his finger firmly on the pulse on Aviation, not only in the UK but worldwide. Nick has been asked to speak in a professional capacity on LBC, Heart and other broadcast networks.