On Saturday, the UK government announced it would be launching the Airports and Ground Operations Support Scheme to help with fallout from its recent decision to close all travel corridors. The plan aims to help airports, currently described as “running on fumes,” with their fixed costs, providing grants before the end of the financial year.
Aid before the fiscal year is up
The UK’s decision to scrap all travel corridors as of 04:00 Monday, January 18th, has prompted grave concerns among its airports. Since this morning, travelers from abroad aged 11 and over must show a negative PCR certificate before boarding.
Furthermore, all arrivals must also quarantine for ten days, with the exemption of those traveling from the Republic of Ireland, the Channel Islands, the Isle of Man, Falkland Islands, Ascension Island, and St Helena. The new, stricter regulations gave rise to fears that airports around the country would need to temporarily close without direct financial support.
However, it seems the most immediate apprehensions may be mitigated. Aviation Minister Robert Courts said this weekend that the government would be launching a program to provide financial assistance to airports and ground operations before the end of the month. Grants are to be made available before April 5th.
The Airport and Ground Operations Support Scheme will help airports reduce their costs and we will be aiming to provide grants before the end of this financial year. Further details to follow soon. 2/2 @transportgovuk
— Robert Courts MP (@robertcourts) January 16, 2021
No exact details are yet available. Meanwhile, such a scheme was first mentioned in November without any set date. The BBC reports that it was intended to involve grants of up to £8 million ($10.84 million) per applicant to cover fixed costs, such as business rates.
Running on fumes
In a statement seen by Simple Flying, Karen Dee, chief executive of the Airport Operators Association (AOA), previously pleaded for urgent assistance. She said it was only so long that the airports could continue to “run of fumes,” while,
“…keeping their infrastructure open to support vital and critical services, such as post, freight, emergency services, military and Coastguard flights, as well as to help keep the lights in the UK on through supporting flights to offshore oil, gas and wind operations.”
Dee also requested relief in the form of regulatory, policing, air traffic, and business rates costs in the current and coming financial year. Meanwhile, she welcomed the scheme, telling the BBC that it would provide much-needed support for many embattled airports and help them through the months ahead.
Gatwick Airport approved of the scheme on Twitter, saying it would help protect on-airport jobs as it “sees a large reduction in passengers due to current travel restrictions.”
“Very difficult place” if restrictions still in place by Easter
The Aviation Minister made no mention of sector-specific support for airlines, which have thus far only benefitted from general government furlough schemes.
Meanwhile, Tim Alderslade, chief executive of industry body Airlines UK, told Reuters that while the first three months of the year are typically the slowest, he hopes regulations will ease by Easter, ahead of the busy spring and summer seasons.
“Easter is a date that we have got in mind for when we can start to have an aviation sector again. If we don’t start bringing revenue into the sector, we’re going to be in a very difficult place indeed,” Mr Alderslade said.
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