Nearly half of all UK air routes will be lost unless Air Passenger Duty is suspended for 12 months, according to an industry pressure group.
Airlines UK said an emergency 12-month APD waiver is needed to save 45% of air routes out of the UK that would otherwise be lost due to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Airlines UK commissioned a study by consultancy York Aviation that estimated an APD waiver could save 8,000 jobs and contribute £7 billion to the economy.
The study showed that without intervention by the government, UK airports would lose around 600 routes initially, with the situation improving as the market recovers to being about 130 routes down by July 2021. The vast majority – 80% of routes – would be lost from the regions.
It added: “With an emergency 12-month Air Passenger Duty waiver in place, the situation improves with the number of routes that would immediately return at around 35.
“This grows steadily as the market recovers, with an APD waiver supporting an additional 56 routes by July next year. In other words, by July 2021 it would have saved around 45% of routes that would otherwise be lost.”
The study concluded the additional £7 billion generated was around 3.3 times greater than the expected revenue from APD over the next 12 months.
UK airlines are asking for a waiver to be announced “no later” than the autumn Budget.
Airlines UK chief executive Tim Alderslade said: “UK airports are in danger of losing many valuable routes over the coming months unless the government steps in with a support package for our sector – starting with an emergency APD waiver to get us through the winter and into the recovery.
“Some of these routes may never come back, but APD relief will by next July save almost half that would otherwise be lost.
“The UK came into this crisis as the third best connected country in the world – it would be a tragedy if through government inaction and neglect we needlessly forfeited this position to our closest rivals.”