Airports Call for Urgent Business Rates Relief Following Collapse in Passenger Numbers

Monday 13 July 2020

The Airports Operators Association (AOA) has today called for urgent business rates relief in line with that afforded to the hospitality, leisure and retail sectors.  The call comes following the unprecedented collapse in passenger numbers induced by COVID-19, which has brought aviation to a near-standstill, with airports still having to pay over half a million pounds a day in businesses rates.

The AOA is calling for a year-long relief from business rates for all airports in England and Wales to come into effect as soon as practical. HM Treasury should extend the same kind of relief which has been afforded to other sectors of the economy; it is clear that local authorities, faced with their own financial issues, are not able to support UK airports on their own. This measure would bring airports in England and Wales in line with their Scottish and Northern Irish counterparts.

The AOA has surveyed members operating in England and found that:

  • Airports in England have paid over £70 million in business rates since the start of lockdown in March despite passenger numbers being down by around 97%
  • The annual cost of business rates for airports in England is over £210 million.
  • In Scotland and Northern Ireland, airports have been given substantial domestic rates relief for a year from the respective devolved authorities.

Chief Executive of the Airport Operators Association Karen Dee said:

“Commercial aviation in the UK has weathered the worst four months in its history and faces a lengthy recovery with passenger numbers not expected to reach pre-Covid levels for a considerable period. Our industry is on its knees and the Government needs to do much more to support airports in recovering from COVID-19.

“Whilst many businesses have benefited from business rates relief, airports in England and Wales have been forgotten and this is constraining their ability to survive through continued restrictions imposed on their operations and to help power the economic recovery of the country. 

“That our airports have been paying £500,000 in business rates every day during the lockdown reflects that the Government simply has not grasped the severity of the challenge and threat that the pandemic has posed and continues to pose to our sector. 

“We have consistently called for the Government to act with urgency and support airports through the biggest challenge that they have ever faced.  A twelve-month business relief programme, similar to that extended to the hospitality and retail sectors, will provide essential support for our beleaguered airports and allow them to play their much-needed role in restarting our economy and to get Britain flying again.”