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Plan B Needed for Britain’s Aviation Sector

June 11, 2021.

Heathrow CEO: Ministers need a Plan B for Britain’s aviation sector if it remains grounded.

Heathrow has faced 15 consecutive months of supressed demand, and with the UK's travel industry still severely curtailed, passenger numbers continue to languish at 90% below pre-pandemic 2019 levels representing a loss of over 6 million passengers in the month.

Image - Kevan James

One month after Government hailed the restart of international travel and assured the public that a risk-based traffic light system would unlock low-risk travel, the system has yet to achieve what it was designed to do. Ministers’ refusal to provide transparency on the data behind the decision making and failure to introduce a green ‘watchlist’ has undermined consumer confidence. At the next review on June 28th, the Government must rely on the science and restart travel to low-risk countries like the US, clear a pathway to restriction-free travel for vaccinated passengers and replace expensive PCR tests with lateral flow for low-risk arrivals.

With Ministers now promising to prioritise the domestic unlock and no clear end date to travel restrictions, a bespoke support plan for the beleaguered and neglected travel industry must be forthcoming. The sector employs tens of thousands of people across Britain who will be wondering what will happen to their jobs and livelihoods after another lost summer. The Government should provide targeted compensation to the sector, starting with business rates relief and an extension to the furlough scheme whilst Ministers continue to keep travel locked down.

Above - The Boeing 747, already nearing the end of its working life before the pandemic, was a quick victim of the worldwide shutdown, with most airlines withdrawing the type from use.

Heathrow Airport Ltd

Reopening transatlantic travel is critical to the UK and US and Heathrow welcomed the establishment of the joint travel taskforce. Earlier this week the CEOs of American Airlines, British Airways, Delta Air Lines, JetBlue, United Airlines and Virgin Atlantic and Heathrow Airport joined forces to stress the need to safely reopen the transatlantic corridor. CEBR research shows that Heathrow’s US passengers accounted for over £3bn pounds of spend across the UK in 2019. Pre-pandemic Britain was the top destination for US tourists, but this leadership position is at risk of being eroded and the country's Global Britain ambitions undermined by France and Italy, who are already set to open their doors to vaccinated American travellers in the coming weeks.

G7 leaders must seize the opportunity to join forces and tackle one of the biggest challenges facing this generation, climate change. Major carriers within G7 states have committed to net-zero flying by 2050, however this can only be achieved by rapidly scaling up the use of sustainable aviation fuels (SAFs). The technology exists – Heathrow took its first delivery of SAF last week – but the right Government policies are needed to build confidence in demand.

The UK's only international hub remains a much emptier place than previously as Summer 2021 gets under way.

Heathrow Airport Ltd.

Heathrow Airport is calling on world leaders to collectively commit to escalating mandates of 10% SAF use by 2030, growing to at least 50% by 2050 and price incentive mechanisms that have kick started other low carbon sectors. The G7 should take a global lead in committing to net-zero aviation, agree to at least 10% SAF in its communique, and build a global coalition for those who back that ambition.

Heathrow CEO, John Holland-Kaye said: “With the G7 starting today, ministers have a chance to kickstart the green global recovery by agreeing how to resume international travel safely and setting a mandate for sustainable aviation fuels that will decarbonise aviation. This is the time for them to show global leadership.”

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