Tens of thousands of jobs could soon be lost unless the Government offers support to the aviation industry, a leading union is warning.
Unite said all UK airports are being affected by the impact on travel caused by the coronavirus crisis, adding that smaller regional airports may be forced to close permanently.
Without urgent action regional economies will take a big hit, destroying the Prime Minister’s pledge to level up the economy, said Unite.
An estimated 1.2 million UK workers rely on aviation for their employment, many of them in the airports, airlines, retail, services and transport jobs associated with air travel, according to research by the union.
Heathrow, the UK’s largest airport, supports 190,000 jobs across the UK and generates an income of £9.7 billion for the surrounding and national economy, said the report.
The economic benefits of regional airports to local economies were also highlighted, with Bristol airport indirectly supporting 15,000 jobs in the South West and generating £1.3 billion, while Glasgow airport supports 8,200 jobs and generating £590 million for the Scottish economy.
Northern Ireland is particularly reliant on air travel to ensure connectivity to the UK mainland but its two airports Belfast International and Belfast City are also major employers, supporting 4,000 workers who are directly employed at the airports, said Unite.
Unite assistant general secretary Diana Holland said: “Airports are hubs for massive economic activity for our towns and cities, supporting jobs from cabin crew and ground handling to engineers and cleaners.
“But they are facing huge challenges at the moment and need urgent assistance to secure a future where they can continue to provide important routes and support millions of direct and indirect jobs.
“To lose them or see them diminish as employers will open up huge holes in local economies the length and breadth of the country.
“It is crucial that regional airports are supported by the government to ensure that regional connectivity and local economies are not irrevocably damaged with mass job losses, especially in those parts of the country where they are a major employer or the heart of the economy.”