Airport chiefs: We need financial support NOW as travel industry faces a deepening crisis
- Heathrow, Gatwick and Manchester bosses warn they are losing £50m a week
- The trio are calling for urgent help from the Government to avoid more job losses
The bosses of Britain’s three biggest airports today issue an unprecedented joint plea for financial support as the travel industry faces a deepening crisis.
In a dramatic intervention, the chief executives of Heathrow, Gatwick and Manchester Airports Group – which also controls London Stansted and East Midlands – warn in an article in The Mail on Sunday that they are losing £50million a week.
The trio are calling for urgent help from the Government to avoid thousands of further job losses. They say that without ‘fair support’ for airports, the Government will have left the aviation sector severely damaged by the time the pandemic is over.
Plea: John Holland-Kaye, chief executive of Heathrow airport
That will inadvertently hand European airports a major competitive advantage, the bosses warn.
It is the first time the three rival airport chiefs have joined forces. They are speaking out as the Government imposes tough new restrictions on global travel.
From next Monday, February 15, all passengers arriving in the UK from countries on the Covid hotspot list must self-isolate for ten days at their own cost in quarantine hotels.
All UK arrivals will also have to take two Covid tests. Passengers from outside Covid hotspot areas will be allowed to isolate at home for ten days, but will still have to take tests on the second and eighth days.
In their co-written appeal, the bosses slam Ministers for an ‘apparent disregard’ for the vital importance of the aviation sector to the economy in powering international trade and tourism.
They write: ‘We agree with the shared goal of ending this crisis and resuming normality as soon as it is safe to do so.
‘[But] unless the Government grasps the true significance of the role we play, it risks giving away our success and our competitive advantage.
‘The longer we go unsupported the less likely we will be in a position to help drive the UK’s recovery and to deliver the Government’s manifesto pledges.
‘The toll of job losses will only increase unless we work with Government on a roadmap out of this and, in the meantime, agree what fair support looks like while we are prevented from doing business. Without action, this Government will be levelling down and creating a Little Britain rather than a global one.’
Gatwick’s chief executive, Stewart Wingate
The appeal for greater state support comes at the most critical point for aviation since the start of the pandemic. The third lockdown travel ban was followed by the suspension of airbridges and stricter testing and quarantine rules.
The three airport operators served 188million passengers in 2019, but passenger numbers fell to just 37million last year.
Despite the airports experiencing a ‘near complete collapse in demand’, the bosses say their fixed costs paid to the Government – including business rates, policing and air traffic control – remain the same at more than £335million collectively each year.
The three chief executives – Heathrow’s John Holland-Kaye, Gatwick’s Stewart Wingate and Charlie Cornish at Manchester Airports Group – say they will be unable to recover from the crisis unless the Government provides ‘targeted’ support, including business rates relief.
Their rates bills are based on revenues generated if all terminals are open. But Heathrow closed Terminals 3 and 4 last spring and Gatwick is only operating from the North Terminal.
The bosses point out that supermarkets received rates relief while remaining open. They handed back £1.8billion after making bumper profits.
The bosses write: ‘We ask the Chancellor to revisit the devastating impact on aviation and redistribute some of that money to a sector facing a real threat.’
Following almost 12 months starved of revenues and passengers, the bosses warn they need to cut more costs after shedding 10,000 jobs.
‘This is having… a hugely negative impact on local communities reliant on our airports for jobs,’ they say.
They also warn they will be forced to close further airline routes. This would mean Britain’s biggest airports lose passengers to European hubs, which have received ‘two to three times’ the level of state support provided by the UK Government. There are also fears some smaller regional airports may have to close permanently.
The bosses say: ‘We are all now in a fight with our European competitors to win these routes back.’
They add: ‘The Government cannot have a global Britain with a grounded and damaged aviation sector. Nor can it have a well connected, levelled-up Britain if we emerge weakened.’