Industry leaders have said Britain’s aviation sector urgently needs more government support if it is to survive another long period of travel restrictions, as they warn of a worsening of the financial crisis in the coming months.
From Monday, international arrivals to the UK will have to quarantine for 10 days, in a bid to stem the spread of any new variants of coronavirus amid a worsening incidence of transmission in the world.
People will also be asked to provide proof of a negative test taken within the previous 72 hours before travelling.
While accepting the restrictions will protect public health, airline chiefs said they had raised the possibility that airports might have to close temporarily to cut costs, describing the move as ‘another blow’ to the sector besieged.
Karen Dee, chief executive of the Airport Operators Association, urged ministers to draw up industry-specific plans for the financial survival of airports while the strict rules are in place.
“Airports are currently keeping their infrastructure open to support vital and critical services, such as mail, cargo, emergency services, military and coastguard flights, as well as to help keep the lights on in the Kingdom. United through support flights to offshore oil, gas and petroleum. wind operations,” she said.
“Airports do this by running on empty – they can only run on steam before they have to shut down temporarily to preserve their business for the future. The government must help cover the costs of operating airports, for example by urgently alleviating regulatory, policing, air traffic and commercial tariff costs in the current and coming tax year .
Travel corridors have been hailed as a lifeline for the aviation industry after being introduced this summer to allow people to travel to and from certain countries with low numbers of Covid-19 cases without having to put themselves in quarantine upon their return.
But amid concerns about a new variant identified in Brazil, ministers have sought to allay fears by temporarily suspending them under plans that will be in place until at least February 15.
Tim Alderslade, chief executive of Airlines UK, which represents all UK-registered airlines, expressed hope that by Easter restrictions would be lifted and the industry could start to recover as the public demand for vacations will likely be high.
“In terms of the volume of flights operated by airlines, we’re talking less than 10 per cent depending on where we would normally be,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
“Easter is a date that we have in mind to start having an aviation sector again because if we don’t start generating revenue for the sector, we are indeed going to be in a very difficult situation because we have now had about 12 months without any income, which is simply not sustainable and the airlines are effectively staying in business taking on billions of pounds of debt, which will have to be repaid.
The government has said it is committed to supporting the travel industry, with Robert Courts, the aviation minister, insisting a ‘very robust’ set of measures are in place to protect the public of any new variant of coronavirus.
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today program that the government was ‘reinforcing already stringent requirements’ to ensure new variants do not arrive from abroad while the vaccine is being rolled out.
The courts have said a total UK travel ban would not be the right approach, and that pre-departure testing, passenger locator forms and the quarantine period would make the system robust.