Northern airport bosses urge government to provide support

Six airports in the North of England have written a letter to Boris Johnson outlining potential recovery initiatives

Following the latest announcement from the prime minister regarding the reopening of air travel, airports in the North of the England are calling upon the government to include support for the sector in its budget this week.

Bosses from Manchester, Carlisle Lake District, Leeds Bradford, Liverpool John Lennon, Doncaster Sheffield and Newcastle International have banded together to write a letter to Boris Johnson urging him to recognise the importance of air travel by providing financial support to the industry.

Prior to the pandemic, the airports collectively handled around 50 million passengers and supported 200,000 jobs – generating approximately £14bn for the northern economy.

Manchester Airport
Photo Manchester Airport 

Although the facilities have welcomed the latest travel recovery plan set out by the government, it is believed that passenger demand will not begin to bounce back until later this year. International travel is still subject to review as part of the plan.

There is still a lot of uncertainty for the near future of air travel, as decisions cannot be made until the Global Travel Taskforce publishes its review on April 12.

Within the letter, the government is given options to considering regarding the support needed for the industry, including relief from fixed costs paid to government, a sector specific extension of the furlough scheme and measures to reduce the cost of travel to boost passenger traffic.

“Having already lost one summer season, we are now heading towards summer facing yet another review into how our industry might restart, and the prospect of a system that could continue to restrict travel,” said Karen Smart, managing director of Manchester Airport. “The recent surge in bookings reported by airlines proves the demand is there, but the government needs to help realise that potential without delay, by working with industry to build on the measures already developed to keep passengers safe, without further undermining consumer confidence.

“Failure to get this right, risks further long-lasting damage to the communities our airports serve and the prospects of a full and balanced UK recovery. This means supporting Northern airports and the vital connectivity they provide. If they don’t, ministers run the risk of damaging the prospects of the Northern economy for years to come.”

Airports do not typically receive any additional funding from the government, despite being part of forming the UK’s national infrastructure. The current travel restrictions mean they are making next to no revenue. Due to having extremely high fixed costs, airports are losing millions of pounds each month.