The bosses of Heathrow, Gatwick and Manchester Airports Group have published an open letter pleading for more government support.
Heathrow boss John Holland-Kaye, Gatwick’s chief executive Stewart Wingate and Charlie Cornish, Manchester Airports Group chief executive, put their names to an article in The Mail on Sunday.
The letter said that, unlike other businesses, airports are unable to diversify and added they are collectively losing £50 million a week.
“The one bill we have not been able to reduce by a penny is that which we pay to the government. Together, we served 188 million passengers in 2019. Last year, the figure was 20% of that,” they said.
“Standing at more than £335 million collectively, our fixed costs for business rates, policing and air traffic control have remained the same – despite a near complete collapse in demand.”
The trio said they had made use of furlough schemes “as far as we can”.
“But most of the costs of running an airport cannot be turned off or turned down, and the furlough Job Retention Scheme has covered less than a sixth of our total costs.
“The Airport Support Scheme, which offers less than one-quarter off a collective bill of £186 million, was inadequate in November. It now verges on disbelief. It was designed to respond to the pressure we faced in 2020 and fails to consider the impacts of a further national lockdown, the suspension of airbridges and further border restrictions.”
They called for targeted financial support to reflect “our new reality”.
“Germany, France and Portugal have all provided two to three times the level of financial support to their aviation sectors that our government has given,” they said.
“The Treasury has a straightforward choice. Last year, supermarkets returned £1.8 billion in unnecessary business rate alleviation after receiving the support whilst recording bumper profits.
“The chancellor said early on that he would support businesses (big and small) with policy that would see them through this crisis. In that his original judgement was misplaced with supermarkets, we ask the chancellor to revisit the devastating impact on aviation and redistribute some of that money to a sector facing a real threat.”
The letter concluded the government’s “lacklustre” response would have been seen as “wholly inadequate” in other transport sectors.