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Threat to airline jobs ‘real’ as unions call for action

UK Civil Aviation Authority warning comes as unions back plan to protect thousands of job

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Heathrow Airport’s Terminal 5 departure area is almost empty amid the coronavirus outbreak. (Stephen Parsons/PA)

Heathrow Airport’s Terminal 5 departure area is almost empty amid the coronavirus outbreak. (Stephen Parsons/PA)

Heathrow Airport’s Terminal 5 departure area is almost empty amid the coronavirus outbreak. (Stephen Parsons/PA)

Union bosses have called for the Government help to save thousands of aviation jobs as regulators warn the threat to the survival of airlines is “real” the longer the coronavirus outbreak lasts.

Richard Moriarty, chief executive of the UK Civil Aviation Authority – the industry regulator, warned: “This is the most challenging period for aviation and package holiday businesses we have witnessed.

“The threat to the survival of some businesses is real the longer this goes on.

“We are doing all we can to help airlines, airports and tour operators.

“This includes working very closely with them on specific operational issues that arise as well as being clear about our expectations on consumer rights.”

Mr Moriarty added: “The underlying consumer desire for aviation and holidays is strong, so once the pandemic is behind us, we will hopefully see a strong recovery of demand.”

Unite, along with aviation unions across Europe, has drawn up a four-point plan, warning the industry faces an “unprecedented crisis” with hundreds of thousands of workers at risk of losing their jobs.

The four points are:

– The Government to make contributions to cover workers’ pay and the consideration of taking a financial stake in airlines and airports to help ensure their survival;

– The extension of loans to airlines and airports and other aviation companies to ease the pressure of the immediate pay-back of loans and assist in the retention of staff and the preservation of routes;

– Delay the payment of taxes and duties that airlines are obliged to pay including a temporary suspension or reduction in Air Passenger Duty (APD);

– Government to support routes through subsidies under public service obligation rules, which are tied to long-term environmental commitments as part of an integrated sustainable transport network.

Assistant general secretary Diana Holland said: “The Government must act decisively and act now, so that when the coronavirus crisis ends there will still be a UK aviation industry.

“Up and down the UK, Unite is working with airlines, airports and the supply chain, to preserve jobs and companies for the future and it is essential that the government plays its part.

“The aviation industry employs hundreds of thousands of workers and they are all looking at the Government for immediate help, to ensure they will still have jobs in the future.”

Coronavirus
A Coronavirus information sign at Heathrow Airport in London (PA)

Airlines UK, the trade body for the industry said in a statement: “The time for action is now. No more delays or prevarication or bean counting.

“We’re talking about the future of UK aviation – one of our world-class industries – and unless Government pulls itself together who knows what will be left of it once we get out of this mess.”

A Government spokesman said: “We recognise how difficult the current situation is for the aviation sector and, across Government, we are engaging with the sector’s leadership to support workers, businesses and passengers.

“We have influenced the European Commission to relax flight slots and HMRC is ready to help all businesses, including airlines, and self-employed individuals, experiencing temporary financial difficulties due to coronavirus.”

PA