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Published on Thursday, November 5, 2020

Furlough extension will do little to help industry, ABTA Chief warns



The furlough scheme in its current form will do little to protect jobs and save business in the travel sector which faces a 'brutal' winter, ABTA Chief Executive Mark Tanzer has said.


Responding to the Chancellor's announcement to extend the original job protection scheme for another five months, Tanzer warned it will still leave the industry in crisis.


He again called for tailored support to address the unique issues facing travel.


Under the furlough scheme the government will pay 80% of the hours an employee does not  work.


But Tanzer said staff in travel agencies will still need to work on re-booking cancelled holidays and refunding customers, meaning employers won't quality for the finamncial support.


But revenue generation will still be negligible, he said.


"It is time this Government stepped up and supported the UK travel industry. Other sectors who have been hit hard by the pandemic have received tailored support from the Government - but travel has been left waiting in spite of clear evidence of the harm that is being done," Tanzer said.


"While the extension of furlough may seem positive on the face of it, it needs to be much more flexible for it to make a difference to jobs and businesses in the travel sector.


"Taking into account that staff will have to work on re-bookings and refunds but won't be generating any income.


"Without the flexibility in furlough and tailored support for the sector, travel agents and tour operators face more brutal months ahead with little or no ability to sell holidays but mounting costs and rising redundancies."


While the extension was welcomed by Airlines UK, Chief Executive Tim Alderslade stressed furlough alone was insufficient.


"This is a welcome announcement and all the more important with aviation now essentially closed following the new lockdown travel restrictions," he said. "Furlough extension will enable carriers to retain more of the key staff and highly skilled roles that will be essential for when demand returns, but which otherwise would be at real risk.


"However, wage support covers only a portion of the high cost base airlines must cover simply to exist, and carriers face this new lockdown in a far weaker position than when the crisis started in March.


"Airlines - which have spent the past few months desperately cutting costs and taking on billions of pounds of collective additional debt - urgently need access to further liquidity measures to shore up their balance sheets, and the immediate introduction of a UK testing regime instead of blanket quarantine, to provide much needed certainty for customers so they can travel again with confidence."


By Steve Jones Contributing Editor (UK)

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