On Saturday 19 December, the British government announced that Bedfordshire would be one of the many regions plunged into tier 4 – the highest level of restriction. This means that people cannot leave or be outside of the place they are living unless they have a reasonable excuse, effectively ending the vast majority of travel through London Luton Airport.

The airport saw passenger numbers for November 2020 drop by 90% compared to the same period in 2019. These figures clearly highlight the devastating impact of travel restrictions on passenger flows through the airport.

It was hoped that the introduction of measures to reduce quarantine time would help passenger numbers increase in December. However, the latest restrictions have dashed these hopes, meaning December will be a very poor month for the airport in comparison with last year’s figures.

The UK’s biggest holiday company TUI has cancelled holidays and flights due to depart from London Luton Airport as it is inside the Tier 4 Area. For many in the UK, the latest cancellations will effectively end travel for the year, which will have a damaging impact on the tourism industry within the UK and also in countries reliant on British visitors.

London Luton Airport: A struggling airport could be devastating for local community

According to the Luton Economic and Demographic Report (Q4, 2020), 9.8% of Luton’s population work in transport and storage, reflecting the importance of the airport to the community. According to London Luton Airport, the airport employs 10,000 people directly on-site and 17,000 people are indirectly employed off-site, in supply and support services in the local area.

Jeff Hodge, of Unite (trade union), said the situation at London Luton Airport was “dire” and 250 of their members had lost their jobs. Meanwhile, the airport said it did not expect to recover to pre-pandemic levels for several years.

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This situation will almost certainly have a knock-on effect for the local community of Luton and Bedfordshire. With higher unemployment rates, locals will be more frugal with their money, which will in turn impact local businesses.

Greater unemployment will also mean that people in Bedfordshire and the surrounding areas will be less likely to go on holiday even once restrictions are lifted, which will further impact the airport.

London Luton Airport is not alone in this situation with airports up and down the country being hit hard by the Covid-19 pandemic. The question will now be raised, will the government do more to help support airports which are so vital to the country’s infrastructure?