Editor’s Highlights

The second month of lockdown coincided with the Easter recess and therefore a considerable reduction in parliamentary business (only 5 PQs answered) as the Government focused its attention on fighting the COVID-19 epidemic whilst airports were battening down the hatches financially in an attempt to preserve cash and afford themselves the chance to wait the crisis out until commercial flying starts again. Exactly when that will be is unclear because the Government does not appear to have a strategy for exiting lockdown let alone a clearly thought through plan of how airports should operate until there is widespread immunity in the population and the risk from the virus has been minimised both in the UK and overseas.

The Government’s approach of only offering bespoke support to airports as a last resort differs significantly from the approach adopted in the EU and North America where financial packages have been offered much more readily. The industry rumour mill suggests HMT was less than impressed by well capitalised businesses with plenty of liquidity like EasyJet and Virgin asking for Government support whilst laying off large numbers of employees permanently. But this one size fits all approach based on these major business’ risks undermining the much more fragile balance sheets of smaller airports and regional airlines; this is something SASIG will be raising with DfT officials on 14 May and HMT officials shortly thereafter. DfT is understood to have formed a ‘Restart and Recovery Unit’ in the Aviation Directorate, to be matched by a similar unit in the CAA – SASIG will be seeking to engage with both shortly.

Finally, the opportunity to participate in a study of the financial and economic impacts that COVID 19 has caused local authorities that own or host airports within their administrative boundaries, which is supported by DfT and 5 member authorities so far remains open for other members to consider. Please approach the secretariat if you require further details.

Chris Cain

Head of Secretariat

Monthly Highlights

4th April – Sir Keir Starmer elected as Leader of the Labour Party.

8th April – Airlines can defer air navigation services charges for using European airspace. This will apply to flights that operated between February-May 2020 – for up to 14 months.
28th April – Financial Secretary to the Treasury publishes a Written Ministerial Statement that includes announcing a delay to publication of the consultation on aviation tax reform (the supporting press notice can be found here). 

To note: two consultations have been extended due to the COVID-19 crisis:

Events, Meetings and Conferences

SASIG Meetings

17th July 2020: 11am-1pm: SASIG full meeting (Venue: LGA, Smith Square, London). Potential postponement or use of video base participation under consideration – to be updated.

19th November 2020: 11am-1pm: SASIG full meeting (Venue: LGA, Smith Square, London)

External Conferences (please note: some changes due to COVID-19 crisis)

–           11-13 June 2020: AeroExpo UK: The UK’s festival of aviation. Wycombe Air Park. (Cancelled until June 2021-see below).

–           30 June-2 July 2020: LGA Annual Conference & Exhibition: Harrogate. (Cancelled-future date tba) 

–           5-6 October: British-Irish Airports EXPO: Venue will be ExCel, London. (Rescheduled from 9-10 June).

–           10-12 June 2021: AeroExpo UK: The UK’s festival of aviation. Wycombe Air Park.

Parliamentary and Government News

Easter Recess: both Houses rose on 25th March and returned on 21 April with many MPs using technology to join in.

28th April – Financial Secretary to the Treasury publishes a Written Ministerial Statement that includes announcing a delay to publication of the consultation on aviation tax reform (the supporting press notice can be found here).  The Government will provide more detail on the publication of this consultation in due course.

Transport Questions:  House of Commons: 

There were no Transport questions in the House of Commons this month.

Transport Questions:  House of Lords

There were no Transport questions in the House of Lords this month.

Parliamentary Questions:  

Q.1. Question (37598) asked by Mark Menzies (Fylde) on 20 April 2020: “To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, what assessment his Department has made of the environmental effect of aeroplanes circling Heathrow airportwhile awaiting a landing slot”.

A. Kelly Tolhurst on 28 April 2020: “We recognise that aircraft maintaining a holding pattern before landing at Heathrow wastes fuel, creates delays for airlines and their customers, and can increase aviation’s environmental impact. A key objective of the UK’s plan for airspace modernisation is therefore to minimise the amount of airborne holding before landing at our major airports, which will help to reduce carbon emissions and noise impacts. It may also be of interest to my hon. Friend the Member for Fylde, that following a request for urgent action from the Secretary of State for Transport, on 27 March the UK’s Airport Slot Coordinator, Airport Coordination Limited, announced it would grant alleviation to airlines from the 80:20 slot usage rules until October 2020. This will avoid ‘ghost planes’ and protect both airlines and the environment. The letters from the Secretary of State are publicly available to my hon. Friend the Member for Fylde”.

 Q.2. Question (38915) asked by Dan Jarvis (Barnsley Central) on 22 April 2020: “To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer, what assessment his Department has made of the potential merits of providing additional financial support to the aviation sector during the covid-19 outbreak and making that support contingent on airline companies committing to taking steps to (a) increase wages in line with the National Living Wage, (b) offer furlough where possible and (c) commit to, and plan for, further emission-reduction targets”.

A. Steve Barclay on 28 April 2020: “The Government recognises the challenging times facing the aviation sector as a result of COVID-19 and the Chancellor wrote to the aviation sector on 24 March to set out the Government’s position and the support measures available. Given the significant importance of the aviation sector to our economy and economic recovery, the Government is prepared to enter negotiations with individual companies seeking bespoke support as a last resort, having exhausted other options. However further taxpayer support would only be possible if all commercial avenues have been fully explored, including raising further capital from existing investors and discussing arrangements with financial stakeholders. The Government has announced a package of measures, including the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, which help firms to retain employees. This Scheme will allow businesses to put employees on temporary leave, with the Government paying cash grants of 80% of their wages up to a cap of £2,500 per month, providing the business keeps the person employed. The Department for Transport are planning to consult to update the Government’s position on aviation and climate change. It is critical that we consider how the aviation sector can play its part in delivering our net zero ambitions”.

Q.3. Question (37412) asked by Gareth Thomas (Harrow West) on 20 April 2020: “To ask the Secretary of State for International Trade, what discussions (a) she, (b) Ministers and (c) officials of her Department have had with the International Air Transport Association on (i) maintaining existing global airline-based trade routes to and from the UK and (ii) reopening other such trade routes (A) during and (B) after the covid-19 outbreak; and if she will make a statement”.

A. Greg Hands on 27 April 2020: “This Department has not been in communication with the International Air Transport Association”.

Q.4. Question (38030) asked by Dr Dan Poulter (Central Suffolk & North Ipswich) on 2 April 2020: “To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, what plans his Department has to introduce restrictions on international air travel to the UK as a result of covid-19”.

A. Nadine Dorries on 27 April 2020: “The Department of Health and Social Care has indicated that it will not be possible to answer this question within the usual time period. An answer is being prepared and will be provided as soon as it is available”.

Q.5. Question (37843) asked by Stephen Morgan (Portsmouth South) on 20 April 2020: “To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, what recent discussions he has had with representatives of British Airways on the provision of financial support for that company during the covid-19 outbreak”.

A. Kelly Tolhurst on 28 April 2020: “The department is monitoring and in regular dialogue with aviation businesses, including British Airways, ensuring that firms which provide vital services and infrastructure still exist following the outbreak. The Chancellor has taken significant action to support businesses throughout the UK economy – including unprecedented steps to support wages and financing. These include Time to Pay, financial support for employees, and the Bank of England’s Covid Corporate Financing Facility. We do not comment on the commercial or financial matters of private firms. To protect the interests of the taxpayer, the Chancellor has been clear that bespoke Government support will only be considered as a last resort, once all other options have been fully exhausted – including raising further capital from existing investors, approaching other investors, and discussing arrangements with financial stakeholders. Any Government support will only be provided on commercial terms”.

Q.6. Question (37541) asked by Daniel Kawczynski (Shrewsbury & Atcham) on 20 April 2020: “To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, what financial support the Government is making available to the transport sector during the covid-19 outbreak”.

A. Kelly Tolhurst on 28 April 2020: “We recognise that the Covid-19 outbreak has had unprecedented effects across the transport sector. The government has provided a comprehensive support package for businesses. This includes measures to support workers through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, and support to businesses through the Covid Corporate Financing Facility, the Coronavirus Interruption Loan Scheme and the Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Loan Scheme. We are engaging with the transport sector on a regular basis to understand the impacts of Covid-19 on their businesses and providing guidance on how to access the government’s business support schemes. On Friday 24 April the government announced a multi-million-pound support package for essential freight services, including up to £17 million for critical routes between Northern Ireland and Great Britain, up to £10.5 million for lifeline ferry and freight services to the Isle of Wight and the Scilly Isles, and further support for critical routes between Britain and the European mainland. The Secretary of State for Transport also confirmed that the Department for Transport has been working with the Northern Ireland Executive to develop a support package which will ensure passenger flights from Belfast and Derry-Londonderry to Great Britain are maintained during this Covid-19 response period. This will ensure that routes which are vital for those who need to travel remain open. The Department is in discussions with the relevant airlines, airports and the Northern Ireland Executive to finalise this package, guaranteeing lifeline air passenger services. In addition, government has provided funding totalling £167 million over 3 months to support bus services in England, to keep key routes running and to provide a lifeline for those who cannot work from home”.

National and Regional News

1st April – Liverpool John Lennon Airport flight path consultation closing date delayed. It was originally April 9th but the new date will now be April 27th.
1st April – East Midlands cargo business increases during COVID-19 crisis. It’s had the smallest fall in scheduled flights in Europe after its cargo business grew last month in response to the crisis.
1st April – Bid to change Bristol Airport status could lead to increase in summer night flights. It is currently allowed to operate 3,000 night flights over 7 months the summer. 
2nd April – Consultation on proposal to designate Bristol Airport is extended until 26 June 2020 because of coronavirus crisis. It opened on 24th February 2020. 
3rd April
 – Heathrow will close one of its two runways next week. They will alternate which one they keep open on a weekly basis, a spokesman said.
3rd April – An article in ‘Airport Technology’ titled: ‘Survey: will Heathrow’s third runway be worth the cost?’ can be seen here.
3rd April – Ryanair expects ‘minimal if any’ traffic from Leeds Bradford Airport. It said that the number of passengers it carried in March was 48% lower than the same month last year.
4th April – Heathrow to close two terminals. This will be starting April 6 due to low air traffic amid the COVID-19 crisis. However, the airport’s terminals 2 and 5 will remain open.
7th April – Heathrow remains financially robust. The announcement came from credit rating agency despite the ongoing uncertainty surrounding the spread of COVID-19.  

7th April – Plans for a 412-bedroom venue at Airport City Manchester have been approved. The location is considered to be “well-placed to meet airport core demand”.
7th April- Leeds Bradford Airport issues positive update for staff amid COVID-19 crisis. There will be no redundancies and staff will receive 100% pay.
8th April – Boss of Southampton Airport steps down. Neil Garwood will leave the organisation on June 19 after nine years.
9th April – Stansted Airport becomes drive-in coronavirus testing centre for NHS staff. It will be sited in a long-stay car park and feature up to five testing lanes.
11th April – East Midlands Airport is now in top ten for European flight movements. Last year it was ranked 13th in the UK for passenger movements. 
14th April – Heathrow forecasts 90% passenger number plunge in April. It said today that its passenger numbers were down 52% in March compared with the same period last year.

16th April – Southampton Airport is to become a temporary mortuary to serve Hampshire, Portsmouth and Southampton during the coronavirus outbreak. Further details here.

17th April – Traffic across MAG airports – Manchester, East Midlands and London Stansted – has been “severely impacted” by the ongoing coronavirus crisis. See details here.

17th April – Stansted uses the unprecedented grounding of aircraft across the world as an opportunity to refurb the runway during daytime. Further details here

18th April – An article in Transport Xtra stating Government appears to have abandoned emergency fund proposals to help UK aviation through Covid-19 crisis can be seen here.

18th April – An article showing pictures of Heathrow as never seen before – completely empty – may be seen here.  The same for Stansted Airport can be seen here.

20th April – London Luton Airport uses coronavirus downtime to work with local community. This includes redeployed medically trained firefighters to work with ambulance crews.

21st April – Airports ‘at risk’ of closure as flights drop 90% due to coronavirus. Nine out of 10 flights have been grounded since the UK went into lockdown.

21st April – 99% of flights out of Gatwick have been grounded due to Covid-19. Figures show just 13 planes took off from the airport last week.

22nd April – Plans for the latest phase of works at Manchester’s Airport City have been backed. Work comprises almost 400,000 sq ft of warehouse and office space.

21st April – Cargo continues to flourish at Biggin Hill Airport. There are no slot restrictions and it’s well-connected to the south of UK so continues to provide supplies to those in need.

22nd April – Doncaster Sheffield Airport responds to claims that regional airports face closure due to COVID-19. Chairman has issued a message of reassurance to airport users.

22nd April – Consultation on Liverpool Airport flight path changes closes on 27th April. Launched in January it forms part of wider plans to modernise the UK’s airspace.

23rd April – Coronavirus effect on Luton Airport contributes to £49m council deficit. Council has projected a £37m drop in airport revenue amid a “catastrophic drop” in passengers.

23rd April – Southend Airport confident it will bounce back after lockdown ends. They’ve also upped the number of cargo flights because of a drop in passenger routes.

23rd April – Blackbushe Airport ‘threatened’ by common land ruling. High Court overturns planning inspector’s decision to remove part of airfield from the register of common land.

24th April – Greater Manchester councils could lose more than £100m from Manchester Airport. It’s still operating some flights with all departures/arrivals taking place only at terminal one.

24th April – Gatwick Airport says it could take 4 years to recover passenger numbers. It said it had raised a £300m loan and taken drastic action to cope with the decline in numbers.

25th April – Changes to Liverpool Airport flight paths concern councillors. There are worries that constituents will face more noise and air pollution if the plans go ahead.

27th April – Regular Gatwick flights could start up next month. That’s the hope of airport CE Stewart Wingate.

27th April – Stansted still ‘carefully considering’ expansion appeal. Airport bosses have rebuffed a request from Stop Stansted Expansion (SSE) to rule out a planning appeal.

29th April – Bournemouth Airport is first UK airport to install fever detection camera. The tripod-mounted cameras have been fixed to the airport’s staff entrance.

30th April – Luton Council concerned about exposure to halt in its financial revenue because of no flights at airport. Further details may be seen here.

Other Aviation Industry News

1st April – MP says Scottish Government must provide financial support for Wick airport. He spoke after reply from Government to his call for a PSO to be implemented at the airport.

2nd April – BA to furlough 36,000 employees from today due to coronavirus.  That is 86% of its global workforce.

3rd April – The Welsh Government has stepped in with short-term funding support for Cardiff Airport due to the coronavirus pandemic.  See the press release here.

3rd April – European Regions Airline Association (ERA) Director General urges its members to lobby their governments and national authorities to take action to save aviation industry following the COVID-19 crisis by using a series of policy asks within this document.

6th April – An article in Transport Times titled: ‘Support for airports’ can be seen here.

6th April – An article in Investment Week titled: ‘Infrastructure assets: where to invest when airports, ports and toll roads are suffering’ can be seen here.

7th April – An article in ‘Unearthed’ says confidential documents show lobbyists are coordinating efforts on behalf of airlines to push world governments/airports to roll back environmental taxes and set up bailout funds in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis.

8th April – Airlines can defer air navigation services charges for using European airspace. This will apply to flights that operated between February-May 2020 – for up to 14 months.

9th April – Amazon fly dedicated aircraft into Belfast to fill online orders from NI. The retail giant says the route was established before the coronavirus crisis.

9th April – An article in the Guardian titled: ‘Flights are grounded – is this the moment we give up our addiction to flying?’ Can be seen here.

9th April – Europe’s airports face €23 billion revenue loss by year end. ACI forecasts a loss of 873 million passengers for Europe’s airports in the year.

10th April – US air passenger traffic drops 96%. Further details may be seen here

11th April – Aer Lingus to maintain Belfast City-Heathrow route after British Airways drop out. BA says decision to pull out of this link is temporary response to the impact of Covid-19.

11th April – Aviation at risk of being ‘left behind’ without government support. Aviation groups are calling on government to boost support for the sector during the Covid-19 crisis.

12th April – An article in Airport World titled ‘View from the top’ giving ACI World director general’s thoughts on some of the economic, operational and infrastructural challenges and opportunities facing airports can be seen here

13th April – An article in the Moodie Davitt Report titled: ‘The Analyst: Is Force Majeure the next must-have clause in airport concession agreements?’ can be seen here.

13th April – An article in Airport World titled: ‘Healthy airports: What terminals will look like post-pandemic’ can be seen here.

14th April – Wizz Air axes 1,000 jobs after operating at just 3% of pre-coronavirus capacity. It operates at UK airports including Luton, Liverpool, Bristol, Birmingham and Edinburgh.

15th April – IATA offers free training during COVID-19 crisis. It’s offering free access to online training courses for up to 5,000 aviation workers as part of its efforts to help the industry.

16th April – Easyjet says bookings for winter are well ahead of this point last year. Figures do include passengers with cancelled flights who’ve rebooked rather than try to get a refund.

16th April – An article in Airport Technology titled: ‘Could twin-engine airliners be aviation’s silver bullet?’ advocating the end of the 4-engine airliner can be seen here.

16th April – An article in TechRadar Pro titled: ‘Defending aviation from cyber attack’ can be seen here.

17th April – ACI World lays out policy ‘road map’ for recovery of airports industry including calls for increase in duty free allowances. For further details see here.

20th April – Loganair in Government bailout talks. It is reported that it is meeting with the Department for Transport.

21st April – Virgin Australia goes into voluntary administration. Last month, about 8,000 of 10,000 workers were temporarily stood down as most planes were grounded due to virus. 

21st April – COVID-19 crisis puts CAA’s ATOL protection scheme at risk. Large number of cancellations and no way to predict when normal travel will resume is forcing tour operators to issue refunds often without having been refunded themselves by airlines and hotels.

21st April – UK airports with the biggest drop in traffic since lockdown began are listed here.

23rd April – Ryanair boss says his planes will not fly with empty middle seat. He claims proposals for them to fly under capacity when COVID-19 restrictions end were ‘mad,’ unaffordable and ‘hopelessly ineffective’.

23rd April – ACI World outlines role of airport industry in global economy. Further details may be seen here.

23rd April – An article in Airport World titled: ‘Time to evolve?’ about how airports can optimise operational efficiency, can be seen here.

24th April – Tourism lobbyist wants APD scrapped to help promote City of Derry Airport after COVID-19 crisis. It would also help promote the tourism sector.

24th April – Distance flown out of UK’s airports drops by 84 million miles a month because of COVID-19. Further details may be seen here.

26th April – Travellers entering the UK via British airports will be forced to quarantine for two weeks, a Government source has reportedly revealed. Further details can be seen here.

28th April – IATA calls for global mutual recognition for civil aviation authorities. Further details may be seen here

28th April – British Airways may make up to 12,000 staff redundant due to Covid-19. Airline is formally notifying its trade unions about proposed restructuring/redundancy programme.

28th April – Financial Secretary to the Treasury publishes a Written Ministerial Statement that includes announcing a delay to publication of the consultation on aviation tax reform (the supporting press notice can be found here).  The Government will provide more detail on the publication of this consultation in due course.

29th April – Airlines should get public aid to eventually restart routes deemed strategic for economic recovery, according to the European arm of ACI. Further details can be seen here.

29th April – Aerospace industry faces ‘gravest crisis’, warns Airbus CE. He made the comment as the European plane-maker revealed it lost £419 million in the first 3 months of the year.

30th April – Plans for Inverness Airport train station are approved. The decision was taken after nearly a decade on the drawing board.

30th April – Boarding planes could take four hours once COVID-19 crisis ends. This would be to allow for health checks and social distancing measures. 

30th April – British Airways may no longer fly from Gatwick after restrictions are lifted. Airline’s MD put the warning in an email to staff. 

30th April – An article in ‘Airport World’ titled: ‘Aviation’s need for financial assistance now urgent’ can be seen here.

30th April – CAA publishes CAP1914 ‘Economic Regulation of Heathrow: programme update.

SASIG Library Additions

An Arcadis/RDC article titled: ‘COVID-19 Impact on Aviation Overview’ may be seen here.