Unions have blasted the government’s mixed messaging on holiday travel, accusing ministers of effectively "shutting down aviation" and "sinking the travel trade".
Pilots union Balpa said the effects of government policy on borders, quarantine, testing and lockdown had been compounded by transport secretary Grant Shapps’ insinuation on Wednesday (10 February) that people should not be booking summer holidays right now.
The union has called for immediate financial support for the aviation sector. "It has been clear for months that this is simply unsustainable," said Balpa.
"The industry cannot survive through never-ending uncertainty and ever-changing restrictions. The government must now recognise it has shut down the sector and take appropriate action as it has for other shut down sectors, such as hospitality."
General secretary Brian Strutton said airlines were drowning. "But rather than throwing us a life raft, the transport secretary has just thrown a bucket of cold water at us," he said.
“We accept the government has to make difficult decisions in the interests of public health and to end the pandemic.
"But if the effect of government action is to shut down this whole sector then it stands to reason the government must compensate for lost business. The UK aviation sector cannot survive another summer with hardly any flying.
"The government’s actions have shut down this industry. If it wants our successful airline industry to survive and power our post-Covid recovery, it must provide economic support immediately."
Travel and transport union the TSSA, which represents high street agents as well as Eurostar workers, said the government’s mixed messages were "sinking the travel trade", adding its failure to offer Eurostar support "may be fatal" for the international rail operator.
“This inept government failed to secure our borders last year and despite longstanding cries for help, has still not provided sector specific support for our travel trade," said TSSA general secretary Manuel Cortes.
“Companies, jobs and whole swathes of the industry will be lost forever. This is devastating for those who work in travel, but it’s also dashing the hopes of so many of us who want to know we can take a break – in the UK or abroad – to ease recovery from this dreadful virus.
“The government has to provide a clear pathway and specific support for the travel trade and operators such as Eurostar. These companies have been worst impacted by travel restrictions, short-notice changes to travel advice, failed test, track and trace, and in many cases exacerbated by Brexit.”