COVID-19 Update 25
Wednesday 22 April 2020
Dear AOA Member,
Today, I wanted to focus on the work we’re starting to undertake around recovery. While we haven’t sorted all the issues yet to get us through the crisis, at the same time it’s crucial for us to think ahead to what needs to be in place to reopen and regain passenger confidence in travelling. I had some helpful feedback to my previous email on this, including offers of support and expertise from our non-airport members, so please do keep those coming.
The Department for Transport (DfT) has set up a restart and recovery unit, as I mentioned in a previous update. The intention is that this works across Government departments (Foreign Office, Home Office, Border Force, DCMS) and industry (airports, airlines, General Aviation etc.) to ensure there is a coordinated approach to resolving key issues. Airports/AOA will be represented and the department is hoping to arrange the first meeting for next week. We’ve also made the point that given the importance of foreign carriers such as KLM and Ryanair to many UK airports, they should be included in this work also.
Issues the unit will look at include, for example, what health measures might be necessary at airports going forward, as the AOA team discussed with the DfT today. There is a tension there between what is medically appropriate and what the passenger expects. Public Health England is, for example, very clear that passenger temperature checks are not effective, yet there appears to be a public expectation/demand for them. The DfT recovery unit will look to establish a baseline, based on the evidence, alongside clear communications to passengers to boost confidence. We’ll be working closely with ACI EUROPE on this, and seeing what experience we can draw on in the wider ACI network, particularly in Asia-Pacific.
Other issues are likely to include regulatory issues around returning furloughed staff, how we ensure we have the appropriate measures in place to ensure airport staff remain healthy and able to do their job in the best way possible, in challenging circumstances. Some of this work may go through existing fora, e.g. within the CAA, but our overriding principle as AOA is that these issues should be discussed by a representative group of industry and that these discussions should feed back in to the overall DfT effort for decision-making. Where possible, we’ll seek to work with partner associations such as the UK Travel Retail Forum and the Freight Transport Association, who the AOA team had helpful discussion with on recovery today.
As our understanding of the crisis and its effects on our industry have deepened, it has become clear, as mentioned in previous updates, that our road to recovery looks to be a long one. With that in mind the AOA is looking to ensure that the DfT’s recovery unit also considers business support measures as the sector finds its feet, including the extension of existing fiscal and employment measures, but also more bespoke solutions for the sector, such as Government support for route development.
As this works progresses and governance, as well as working arrangements become clearer, I will continue to keep you updated.