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Published on Monday, January 18, 2021

Airport support package fails to impress wider travel industry

A financial support package to help airports has been announced a day after the UK closed all of its travel corridors - but it has done little to impress the wider UK travel industry.

Aviation Minister Robert Courts took to Twitter on Saturday (January 16) to promise a raft of cost reductions and grants to airports and ground operators by the end of March.

"The Airport and Ground Operations 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."

Announced in November, along with the Test to Release scheme, the financial support for English airports will be equivalent to the business rates liabilities of each business, capped at £8 million per site, and subject to certain conditions.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced on Friday that all travel corridors to the UK would be removed from 4am today (18 January).

It means anyone entering the UK from any country will have to quarantine for 10 days on arrival, in addition to presenting a negative Covid test.

Incoming passengers will still have the test-to-release option where they can take a test after five days to release themselves from quarantine early. 

Courts' new financial package for airports has drawn instant reaction from the travel industry.

Understandably, the British Airline Pilots Association (BALPA) welcomed the announcement but renewed its call for an aviation wide COVID-19 recovery plan.

BALPA General Secretary Brian Strutton said: "We are pleased our message that aviation needs real support is being heard. This support for airports is a good step, but we must ensure that no part of the UK aviation sector is overlooked.

"On top of Thursday's announcement of 1,100 Norwegian Air jobs at risk, a major US tour operator has now said it will look at other hubs for European trips instead of London. The situation is becoming desperate.

"The industry as a whole is really suffering and we continue to urge the Government to commit to a full action plan for aviation with targeted packages of support for the whole sector."

Others in the industry were less sanguine, claiming there was more to the travel industry than just airports.

Spires Travel tweeted: "Travel agents and tour operators need financial support as well. The last time our business had any income was February 2020. With all #travelcorridors closed for the foreseeable future it looks like we have another few months of no income."

Nicky Greenwood replied to the thread, tagging Boris Johnson and Chancellor Rishi Sunak: "I assume you will now be putting in measures to support the tour operators and travel agents that again are unable to trade due to Government restrictions? Travel is not just airlines and airports."

Michelle Murray, a Gold Medal travel agent, responded: "Um hello (waving). Has the rest of the travel industry been forgotten again? It's not only the aviation sector struggling. I think you'll find travel agents, tour operators and suppliers may need some help too?!"

By Louise Longman, Contributing Editor (UK)


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