The government will be “too late” with targeted support for travel if it waits until the Autumn Budget, industry leaders warned this week.
EasyJet chief executive Johan Lundgren led the calls for action, insisting: “We can’t wait for the economic measures this industry needs if the government wants the industry to remain intact.”
Speaking at a Travel Weekly Future of Travel summit, Lundgren said: “The UK came late to the party on this whole thing. There is so much at stake, but the sense is the government is taking this industry for granted.”
Airport Operators Association chief executive Karen Dee said: “Passenger numbers are barely in double-digit percentage figures and all the time airports stay open they have 70%-80% of [normal] costs. That is unsustainable.”
She warned “it’s not impossible” airports will close and said: “We haven’t got a pathway out.”
Dale Keller, chief executive of the Board of Airline Representatives (BAR UK), argued waiting for the Autumn Budget, expected in early November, would be “too late”.
He told the summit: “It’s too late because the decisions are being made now. Airports and airlines are burning through cash. All the cuts they can make have been made. We’re going into a major restructuring of the industry. It’s inevitable we’ll see more job losses.”
Iata UK and Ireland country manager Simon McNamara agreed: “It’s extremely serious. Iata put out data in March showing that, on average, airlines had two to three months of cashflow. This has been going on five months. Winter is going to be extremely difficult.”
He warned: “There are a huge, huge number of jobs at risk.”
Lundgren pointed out: “The furlough scheme ends in October whereas furlough schemes in most major European markets continue throughout the winter.”
Dee said: “We’re already seeing jobs shed. We still hope the government will put in place some sort of targeted replacement for the Job Retention Scheme. Unless they do something, it will be devastating for airport employees.”
She added: “The government is listening, [but] are they hearing? We’re talking to them a lot. But has Number 10 and the Treasury fully understood the urgency? It appears not. They need to act.”
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