A renewed call for government support came as new estimates suggested UK airports are losing £83 million a week due to Covid-19.

International aviation has been brought almost to a standstill with a projected loss by the end of the year of £4.3 billion, the Airport Operators Association warned.

The industry body claimed the £83 million weekly loss represented a larger cost to the economy because of a multiplier effect from associated businesses that rely on trading from the top 20 airports in the UK. The sector is one of the worst hit by job losses.

The AOA reiterated a call for a 12-month break in Air Passenger Duty and to retain airside VAT-free sales for outbound passengers from January 1.

Tax savings will only apply to sales of alcohol in a move described as a “hammer blow” to struggling airports. As much as 40% of their income comes from airside retailers.

Airports are also urging relief from business rates payments for 2020-21 in line with the help granted to the hospitality and retail sectors, which would aid cash flow. Such support has been given to airports in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

They have previously written to Boris Johnson calling for the introduction of testing to help restore travel.

But the AOA said testing alone would not be enough to revive the sector and financial support would still be needed.

AOA chief executive told the Telegraph: “UK airports have done everything in their power to weather the storm and have done so without the specific Government support afforded to other sectors.

“That they are losing £83 million per week must serve as a wake-up call to the Government and lead to the delivery of the promised Aviation Package of support.

“As we approach the challenging winter months the government must support the industry through the introduction of business rates relief for airports in England and Wales, continuation of VAT-free sales airside, funding for the CAA, a temporary suspension of APD and a longer-term package of financial support that promotes, protects and enhances our global connectivity as our sector looks towards the long journey to recovery.

“Damage now to Britain’s connectivity will take years to repair, harming all our ambitions for the UK in the global marketplace.”

She added: “Last week’s commitment to testing was a welcome first step, but we need the government to understand the brutal reality facing UK airports.

“These projections show that the time for deliberation has passed, and it is essential that they deliver this support and deliver it now.”