A cross-party alliance, led by Gatwick MP Henry Smith, has demanded a "long-term roadmap" for the restoration of the UK’s aviation sector, including greater consideration of so-called "air bridges" to restore international connectivity amid the coronavirus crisis.
Smith, MP for Gatwick constituency Crawley, will chair a new Future of Aviation Group, and has written to transport secretary Grant Shapps setting out the group’s concerns about the lack of support from the government for aviation – despite promises from chancellor Rishi Sunak and Shapps more than two months ago a bespoke "transport support package" was on the way.
The group is calling for clarity on the UK’s 14-day quarantine on arrival requirement, due to come into effect next month, and how this will be reviewed, and what discussions government has had over air bridges to restart safe, quarantine-free travel between the UK and countries with lower rates of coronavirus infection.
In his letter, Smith said the group would be working with all key industry bodies, trade unions, tourism bodies, local business groups and local and regional authorities to "reflect and represent" the sector and other stakeholders.
Addressing Shapps, Smith said aviation was one of the sectors worst affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, impacting airlines, airports, manufacturing, local economies and the tourism industry, as well as a significant number of jobs – particularly in his constituency where Gatwick directly and indirectly supports tens of thousands of jobs.
"The wider aviation family makes a significant economic and social contribution to the UK and will be central to our long-term economic recovery," said Smith. "We are therefore concerned at the lack of progress being made in providing wider support for the industry and in the development of a long-term roadmap that will enable the sector to recover as quickly as possible and play its vital role in our national overall economic recovery."
The letter is counter-signed by Christine Jardine (Liberal Democrat), Catherine McKinnell (Labour) and Gavin Robinson (DUP), while the group its features 40 MPs, the BBC reports.
The group’s intervention further increases the pressure on government to refocus its attentions on aviation urgently re-consider its quarantine proposals after a group of more than 70 travel leaders this week wrote to home secretary Priti Patel urging her to scrap the UK’s quarantine plan, which was set out by prime minister Boris Johnson on 10 May and still yet won’t be enforced until 8 June.
It also comes after several airlines, most recently easyJet, announced swingeing job cut proposals, with British Airways looking to reduce its workforce by up to a quarter and easyJet by up to 30%.
"We welcome the measures already put in place by the government, which have helped businesses throughout the sector to an important extent," said Smith. "However, these measures alone will not be enough to enable our aviation industry to survive in a form that the nation needs.
"We need urgent action now to safeguard jobs, the UK’s international competitivities as an aviation hub and, crucially, to ensure our economy recovers from the impacts of Covid-19 as soon as it is safe and possible to do so. The consequences of inaction in this vital area are simply unthinkable."
The group’s full demands are: