Chancellor Rishi Sunak is expected to extend the government’s furlough scheme until the end of September in his Budget speech on Wednesday (3 March).
Business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng confirmed on Tuesday (2 March) that an extension to the furlough scheme would feature in the chancellor’s address.
Sunak will detail his fiscal plans for the coming year, and additional coronavirus support, in the Commons at lunchtime. He will also break with tradition and host a Budget press conference later on Wednesday.
The furlough scheme, introduced last April, pays 80% of employees’ wages for hours they aren’t able to work owing to the effects of the pandemic.
Many travel businesses, though, haven’t been able to fully utilise the scheme as staff have been required to carry out statutory tasks such as refunding and rebooking clients under package travel rules.
The extension is, however, expected to be tapered, with the support being wound down over the summer through to September as the economy and society reopens according to the government’s Covid roadmap.
This will reportedly involve a fourth self-employment income support scheme grant covering 80% of three months’ average trading profits of up to £7,500, and a fifth yet-unannounced grant.
Union leaders, including Manuel Cortes of the TSSA Union, have called on Sunak to be "crystal clear" in spelling out additional support for the travel and transport sectors in his Budget speech.
New figures from the Office for National Statistics last month revealed travel and tourism to be the sector hardest hit by the coronavirus crisis, with many businesses unable to operate at all since last March.
Pilots union Balpa renewed its call for a dedicated support package for aviation, and reiterated how Sunak such a package almost a year ago which has, to date, failed to materialise.