- UK airports could close within weeks unless Prime Minister Boris Johnson bails out the industry, the UK airport industry said Tuesday.
- The warning came as the UK advised its citizens to cancel all nonessential global travel.
- Numerous airline operators around the world are close to collapse with the novel coronavirus prompting people to avoid air travel.
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Airports across the UK will close within weeks unless Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government takes “urgent” action to bail out the industry, the head of the country’s airport operators has warned.
The UK government on Tuesday advised British citizens against all nonessential global travel, in the latest blow to the aviation industry.
“UK travellers abroad now face widespread international border restrictions and lockdowns in various countries,” UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab told the House of Commons.
“So I have taken the decision to advise British nationals against all nonessential international travel.”
As Raab made his statement, Karen Dee, the chief executive of the Airport Operators Association, urged the UK government to “catch up to its peers across the continent” and help bail out the aviation industry.
Otherwise, she warned, “we are clear that airports will shut down in weeks unless urgent action is taken to support the industry.”
The number of people taking flights in and out of the UK has plummeted since the coronavirus outbreak hit the country. Several other countries have closed their borders, doing further damage to the aviation industry.
Dee on Tuesday issued a stark warning to the prime minister that his government must act to save the industry.
“Governments across the world are supporting their national aviation industries, as many parts of the global travel industry have come to a halt. As some airlines call on the UK government to act similarly, we are clear that airports will shut down in weeks unless urgent action is taken to support the industry,”she said in a statement.
“The UK’s airports are critical national infrastructure, fulfilling a vital public service, and are on the frontline of the COVID-19 outbreak. It is essential that airport businesses remain operating and are able to weather this storm, so that they can provide the connectivity which drives growth, employment and prosperity after the crisis has abated.
“With travel bans proliferating and passengers being unwilling to fly, traffic through airports has plummeted. UK airports are taking immediate and drastic action to cut costs and are scaling back investments in light of the situation. Due to the fixed costs of operating airports, the Government will need to provide additional support.
“The government must step in to see airports across the four home nations through the current crisis, and make an unequivocal commitment to doing whatever it takes to sustain the UK aviation industry.”
She called on the UK government to take a series to steps to relieve stress on the industry, including suspending taxes on airports, providing grants, and sharing the cost of staff laid off during the crisis.
The spread of the COVID-19 virus has already forced airlines to take drastic action.
Virgin Atlantic is temporarily cutting 80% of its flights and has asked staff to take eight weeks of unpaid leave. Ryanair and easyJet have decided to ground most of their planes, while Norwegian Air has temporarily laid off 75,000 staff.