UK airports are warning they face being shutdown within weeks without government help.

The Airport Operators Association fears imminent closures unless ministers intervene.

The call came as airlines such as British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, easyJet and Ryanair slashed schedules in the face of a slump in demand due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Regional airports have also suffered from the collpase of Flybe.

Airport Operators Association calls on government to immediately:

· Be prepared to provide/organise emergency financing as a measure of last resort.
· Require banks to temporarily not enforce financial performance-based banking covenants.
· Suspend business rates and other government and local government rates and taxes on airports.
· Deferral of payments of all VAT, corporation tax and other taxes for the duration of global flight restrictions.
· Share the employment cost of airport staff laid off throughout the crisis.
· Suspend regulatory costs on airports where possible.
· Indefinitely postpone major increases to those regulatory costs.
· Provide relief from airport policing costs.

AOA chief executive Karen Dee said: “The government must step in to see airports across the four home nations through the current crisis, and make an unequivocal commitment to doing whatever it takes to sustain the UK aviation industry. 

“Governments across the world are supporting their national aviation industries, as many parts of the global travel industry have come to a halt.

“As some airlines call on the UK government to act similarly, we are clear that airports will shut down in weeks unless urgent action is taken to support the industry.” 

She added: “The UK’s airports are critical national infrastructure, fulfilling a vital public service, and are on the frontline of the Covid-19 outbreak.

“It is essential that airport businesses remain operating and are able to weather this storm, so that they can provide the connectivity which drives growth, employment and prosperity after the crisis has abated. 

“With travel bans proliferating and passengers being unwilling to fly, traffic through airports has plummeted.

“UK airports are taking immediate and drastic action to cut costs and are scaling back investments in light of the situation. Due to the fixed costs of operating airports, the government will need to provide additional support.

“For the sake of the UK economy it is essential for the UK government to catch-up to its peers across the continent and provide support to the sector and the wider economy through financing, guarantees, grants and tax relief.

“Finally, to help kick-start aviation again once the pandemic is retreating, the government should suspend Air Passenger Duty for six months.”