The British Airline Pilots’ Association (BALPA) has called out the British government over a £2bn ($2.46bn) plan to promote walking and cycling during the current COVOD-19 crisis. In a statement released over the weekend, the UK’s top pilots union issued a combative statement asking how the government could fund outdoor activities when the airline industry was in a death spiral.
This latest complaint from BALPA comes on top of criticism of the government for announcing a 14-day quarantine period for anyone entering the United Kingdom from abroad. Exceptions will be the Republic of Ireland and France. We can assume that France has been given an exception to the rule because they, unlike the United Kingdom, already have a two-week quarantine in place.
The United Kingdom plans to start its quarantine of people entering the country sometime later this week or early next, yet so far, no official announcement has been forthcoming as to when it will start and finish.
The government wants people to cycle or walk to work
When speaking at the United Kingdom’s coronavirus press briefing on Saturday, Secretary of State for Transport Grant Shapps pledged £250m ($308m) to improve the country’s cycling and walking infrastructure as part of the £2 billion plan. According to the BBC, Shapps said,
“Whilst it’s crucial that we stay at home when the country does get back to work, we need to ask those people to carry on cycling or walking and for them to be joined by many others as well.”
The government wants more people to walk or cycle to work as it knows that social distancing rules would make it impossible for everyone to use public transport. The funding is for bicycle and bus-only corridors along with pop-up bike lanes, wider pavements, and safer junctions.
BALPA wants money for airlines
In response to the government’s proposal, General Secretary of the British Airline Pilots Association (BALPA) Brian Strutton said,
“The aviation sector is already facing 23,000 job cuts, with the potential for many more in the weeks and months to come. The government’s proposed 14-day quarantine proposal for incoming international travelers will put even more pressure on the industry for the foreseeable future, and dispute repeated promises; we’ve seen not a single penny in dedicated, bespoke support for airlines.
“Given all this, British pilots will be absolutely aghast and frankly furious at £2bn being found for ‘walking and cycling’ when the airline industry, which is so vital to the UK economy, is dying before our eyes.
“When will the Government recognize that the British airline business is in a death spiral and intervene to support this vital industry and stop the jobs cull?”
Looking at it from a government perspective, the move to promote cycling and walking is a good thing. It is not money being used as a Band-Aid to solve a temporary problem but a long-term solution to get people to stop using cars. We have all noticed how much cleaner the air is during the COVID-19 lockdown and should be happy with this incentive.
Is BALPA right?
While BALPA is right to raise questions over why the UK government is not doing more to support the airline industry, it should perhaps not be at the detriment of a much-needed clean transportation scheme in the nation. Although the industry is desperately in need of more funding, does that have to be instead of the cycling and walking scheme?
Around Europe, countries are pumping hundreds of millions, in some cases billions, of euros into their airlines. Spain yesterday called for a review of the methods involved, asking for a joined-up effort to ensure no airline is left more or less competitive in a post coronavirus world.
Currently, furloughed airline employees in the UK are receiving 80% of their salary under a government scheme. Westminster has also issued funding to both easyJet and IAG, but BALPA believes this doesn’t go far enough.
What do you think about the comments from BALPA? Please let us know your thoughts in the comments section.