UK Budget 2021: reactions from the aviation industry
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UK Budget 2021: reactions from the aviation industry

By Ilaria Grasso Macola 04 Mar 2021

In his presentation of the 2021 UK Budget, Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak angered the UK aviation sector, which accused him of not tailoring a sector-specific recovery fund. Here are some of the reactions from industry stakeholders.

UK Budget 2021: reactions from the aviation industry
The industry accused the government of not tailoring a sector-specific recovery fund. Credit: Number 10.

On Wednesday, UK Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak presented to Parliament his 2021 Budget, which is expected to help the economy face the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic whilst preparing for a post-coronavirus future.

While many sectors – including hospitality and retail – received sector-specific funding, aviation was one of those left out.

Some industry stakeholders have responded with outrage and accused the government of overlooking a sector that is already on its knees and is one of the hardest hit by the pandemic. We highlight reactions from the industry below.

 

“Mr Sunak has totally abandoned aviation”– British Airline Pilots Association (BALPA)

“The Chancellor said not one single word about aviation in his budget,” BALPA general secretary Brian Sutton said in a press statement. “I am utterly dismayed that he can ignore this industry which is clearly going to be the last to recover from Covid-19.”

The trade union – which represents UK pilots’ interests – lamented that whilst there was specific money for sectors such as non-essential retail and hospitality, no direct money was allocated to aviation, one of the industries that was impacted the most by the pandemic.

“This is a massive slap in the face for the industry that has supported repatriations, brought in vital supplies and faced never ending changes to restrictions and rules and a total shutdown as a result of Government policy,” Sutton added. “Mr Sunak has totally abandoned aviation and failed to acknowledge just how difficult times are for the sector right now.

“This budget could push many airlines further in to a death spiral and cost even more jobs.”

The trade body stated it will look to the Global Taskforce report of 12 April – which will present recommendations for facilitating the return to global air travel – as a way to help the industry get back on its feet.

 

“The Budget is blind to the impact of near-complete shutdown of international travel” – Airport Operators Association (AOA)

“Aviation has been the hardest-hit sector in the pandemic, but the Budget is blind to the impact of the near-complete shutdown of international travel,” explained AOA chief executive Karen Dee.

According Karen Dee, whilst the extension of furlough scheme was welcomed, it’s not enough to cover the impact of the pandemic. “Aviation will have a long road to recovery, with passengers not expected to return to 2019 levels until the late 2020s,” she said.

“An abrupt end to government support for aviation in a few months’ time will lead to difficult decisions for airports, including on employment levels.

“The UK’s global competitors have recognised this and have backed their airports and aviation sectors with support far exceeded the UK’s efforts to date.”

Dee applauded relief measures – including full-year rates relief – put in place by the Scottish and Northern Irish governments to help the sector get through the next few months, asking the UK Government to develop a long-term recovery package for the whole of the UK.

“Only with such support will the work of the new Global Travel Taskforce have any chance of a successful take-off towards a world-leading UK aviation sector.”

 

“The Budget is a missed opportunity to ensure the sector can be a key role” – Heathrow CEO John Holland-Kaye

“The Chancellor talks about protecting jobs and livelihoods, fixing the public finances and laying the foundations for the future economy, and yet he continues to ignore the UK’s aviation sector,” said Holland-Kaye.

“He clearly doesn’t understand that all three depend on a strong aviation sector delivering the trade, tourism and investment that power vast parts of the British economy.

“Failing to even mention aviation, let alone provide full business rates relief for airports in today’s Budget, is a missed opportunity to ensure the sector can play a key role in the country’s economic recovery.”

Not having meaningful support from the government, added the CEO, will only weaken a sector already on its knees, hindering growth at a crucial time.

 

“It is hugely disappointing that no further financial support was provided” – Manchester Airports Group (MAG)

Echoing what was already set by other industry stakeholders, MAG – which operates Manchester Airport as well as London Stansted and East Midlands – expressed its disappointment regarding the lack of aviation-specific recovery funds but reiterated its commitment to work alongside Downing Street.

“It is hugely disappointing that no further financial support was provided to airports in their hour of need, particularly given the delays and uncertainty around the industry’s recovery,” commented MAG CEO Charlie Cornish in a press statement.

“We are committed to working with government on a plan to get Britain flying again at the earliest opportunity.”

“The Global Travel Taskforce must now achieve its goal of agreeing a risk-based framework for the resumption of international travel by the 12th April deadline so that the UK can get moving again over the summer.

“Failure to do so would inflict further damage to an already ailing sector, placing thousands more jobs at risk and holding back the full recovery of the wider economy.”

 

“Aviation continues to be of little interest for the UK Government” – Francesco Ragni, Buckinghamshire New University aviation management senior lecturer

“There was not a single mention for the sector in the Budget presented yesterday by Rishi Sunak, and no specific measure to support it,” Ragni tells Airport Technology. “Calls for help from the airline and airport industry have been ignored once again.”

“This was not unexpected but still is quite difficult to digest for the industry, if we consider the essential role of commercial airlines for the economy, and the fact the aviation is traditionally an area of strength for the UK.”

Drawing a comparison with other countries such as Italy and Norway which have put in place measures to specifically help aviation, Ragni believes that Downing Street will want to leave the fate of aviation in the hands of shareholders and the market.

“Simply put, aviation is not a priority for this government, that seems to associate it with leisure travel and consider more a luxury than a necessity,” he adds. “A vision that fails to recognise the relevance of aviation for the entire economy.”

“Of course, the extension of furlough will help travel companies, but aviation needed industry-specific measures, such as the reduction of Air Passenger Duty which is already the highest in Europe and continues to increase,” he concludes.