The government has set out plans for a new support scheme for airports and ground handlers, although pilots union Balpa has questioned whether the measures go far enough to support the aviation sector.
Aviation and maritime minister Robert Courts made the announcement via Twitter late on Saturday (16 January), stating it was the government’s aim to provide grants before the end of the financial year.
It came after prime minister Boris Johnson on Friday (15 January) confirmed the closure of all UK travel corridors which, when combined with the new pre-departure testing scheme that came into force at 4am on Monday (18 January), means all arrivals must now test negative for Covid up to 72 hours before departing for the UK and quarantine for 10 days upon their arrival.
"Closing our travel corridors will help prevent the spread of new Covid variants in the UK," said Courts.
"I know the impact this will have on the aviation sector, so to help limit this, I am announcing 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. Further details to follow soon."
Balpa, while welcoming news of fresh financial support for airports, warned there needed to be an "aviation wide" Covid-19 recovery plan.
"We are pleased our message that aviation needs real support is being heard," said general secretary Brian Strutton.
"This support for airports is a good step, but we must ensure that no part of the UK aviation sector is overlooked.
"On top of Thursday’s announcement of 1,100 Norwegian Air jobs at risk, a major US tour operator has now said it will look at other hubs for European trips instead of London. The situation is becoming desperate.
"The industry as a whole is really suffering and we continue to urge the government to commit to a full action plan for aviation with targeted packages of support for the whole sector."
After Johnson announced the government’s decision to suspend the country’s travel corridor regime, chief executive of the Airport Operators Association, Karen Dee, said the move – while understandable from a public health perspective – added to the "near-complete shutdown" of the UK’s airports.
"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," said Dee.
"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… 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."