Covid-19 updates

COVID-19 Update 41

Friday 15 May 2020

Dear AOA Member,

Over the past couple of weeks, we’ve received a lot of products and services that non-airport members have developed in response to COVID-19. I’ve been struck by the breadth and speed of the innovation. While we’re all suffering the impact of COVID-19, it’s good to see that we remain resilient as a sector and able to adapt at speed. You can see all the submissions so far here on our website.

I mentioned earlier this week that the DfT talked of three phases of tightening around public health measures, with the final step being quarantine. The first of those will start next week. Revised Public Health England guidance has been released for ports in England, which mainly affects airlines. Airlines have to make announcements onboard and submit a General Aircraft Declaration, confirming the health status of the flight. A NOTAM will be issued to this effect. The measures are voluntary at the moment, but Government is preparing legislative options to make them mandatory.

The European Commission has released guidance to enable further public funding of airports and airlines during the COVID-19 pandemic (this also covers the UK during the Brexit transition period). It sets out two new ways that expand the interpretation of the existing framework:

  • Airports and airlines may operate in the ‘public remit’, i.e. providing COVID-19 emergency activities for which public funding does not fall within state aid rules. This means airports that are required to accommodate certain flights may be compensated for the variable costs related to these activities.
  • States may need urgently to put in place public services to replace commercial routes to ensure basic connectivity. Through ‘Emergency Public Service Obligation (PSO)’ they can do so for a period of three to six months (until 31 December 2020) without notification to the European Commission (i.e. they are awarded outside the framework of Regulation 1008/2008).

For airports, the Emergency PSO may cover essential airport services that must be maintained for operations but which are no longer economically viable. For airlines, the Emergency PSO may be awarded for routes operated commercially prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, which are considered essential, with a minimum required frequency (in terms of connections) and volumes (e.g. passenger capacity, freight). Based on the guidance, States are expected to ‘self-assess’ their compliance with State aid rules (i.e. scope of the PSO and compensation levels).The rules on Public Procurement in the context of the COVID-19 (see the Communication) allow for the direct award of a contract without publication in case of ‘extreme urgency’ – the European Commission stipulates that in case other transport modes are available, the regular tendering rules apply.

Have a good weekend,

Karen Dee
Chief Executive