June 24, 2020 / 10:18 AM / 12 days ago

UK airports warn 20,000 jobs at risk as travel slump continues

FILE PHOTO: People sit amongst socially-distanced seating signs at Heathrow Airport, as the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues, in London, Britain, May 10, 2020. REUTERS/Toby Melville/File Photo

LONDON (Reuters) - Up to 20,000 jobs could go at Britain’s airports, an industry group warned, calling on the government to do more to help an aviation industry that was shut down by the COVID pandemic and is now struggling to restart due to quarantine rules.

The Airport Operators Association (AOA), which represents more than 50 airports, said future passenger numbers at UK airports were expected to be significantly lower, and analysis of its members suggested up to 20,000 jobs were at risk.

Up to 110,000 jobs could be lost in industries supported by airports, AOA warned. Later on Wednesday, airport ground services and cargo handling company Swissport said it could cut up to 4,556 jobs in the UK and Ireland.

AOA called on the government to scrap its quarantine regime, provide relief from business rates, extend a job retention scheme, directly fund the sector regulator and suspend air passenger taxes to help save jobs in the industry.

“These jobs figures clearly show that a key component of the UK’s infrastructure is on its knees, with no relief to the current crisis expected,” said AOA chief executive Karen Dee.

“Government needs to recognise the immense crisis facing the country’s airport communities and take action to support UK aviation and protect livelihoods.”

UK-based airlines British Airways (ICAG.L), Virgin Atlantic and easyJet (EZJ.L) have already announced close to 20,000 job losses between them. The country’s biggest airport Heathrow has also started a voluntary redundancy scheme.

Britain has a 14-day quarantine policy in place for arrivals into the country from abroad, which airlines, airports and the hospitality sector have said is deterring international travel at a time when they had been hoping for it to recover.

The rule is due to be reviewed on June 29, three weeks after it was introduced and could be replaced by “air bridges”, which would allow restriction-free travel between countries with low infection rates.

Reporting by Sarah Young; Editing by Mark Potter and Louise Heavens

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