COVID-19 Update 45
Thursday 21 May 2020
Dear AOA Member,
Today has been a day with a lot of conference calls with a range of Ministers and officials.
First, we joined the Aviation Minister for our fortnightly calls, which covered a broad range of issues. Naturally, we highlighted that the expected quarantine measures have made the financial position of airports even more difficult and that the case for substantial sector-wide support – such as business rates relief on which we wrote to the Chancellor yesterday – has never been more valid. The Minister assured airports that DfT is feeding back to HM Treasury on this and noted that detail on the Job Retention Scheme’s (JRS) planned flexibility and the employer contribution is expected next week.
Specifically on quarantine, we expect that details may be announced tomorrow, as officials told us the Home Secretary is due to hold the daily briefing (though that may still change). DfT has asked for cargo and crew to be amongst the exemptions, but discussions are still ongoing on the final list. In terms of the regular reviews of quarantine, we were told economic and sectoral impact will be considered alongside the medical evidence and that the reviews will be on a 3-week cycle. I reiterated that regardless of exemptions, airlines will not fly if there is insufficient demand to make the flight commercially viable.
We made the latter point also on the freight call we joined with DfT Ministers Andrew Stephenson, Rachel Maclean and Baroness Vere. This call focused predominantly on how the freight sector will recover and support the wider economic recovery, and we highlighted the impact of quarantine on bellyhold freight.
Our final call with the DfT was the Expert Steering Group. Along with Airlines UK, I presented on the industry perspective on the health measures. We had a good discussion on the areas where, now knowing the impacts and industry’s ability to implement the measures, we now need Government to make decisions on what the final list of health measures will be. DfT is going take away the feedback and the points raised in the discussion and work on some next steps and the medical expert panel will also give their view. We also discussed “air bridges” proposals, but while industry is very supportive of this, DfT was clear it will take a lot of further work across government, including medical and scientific input on how to implement this. There was frustration on the call from industry representatives on the pace of work – with some arguing that the Government needs to be ready to exempt countries from day 1 if they meet the right criteria.
The last couple of calls we joined were led by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS). On our regular call with the Business Secretary, a range of trade associations once again raised their concerns with the proposed quarantine. We also had a BEIS-led call with the Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland offices. Business groups, including AOA, raised the challenges of diverging public health measures for businesses as they look to start up again. As AOA, we also flagged the distortive impact of the diverging business support measures – with Northern Ireland and Scotland giving business rates relief to airports, and England and Wales not.
Finally, a few quick points:
- CLBILS: the Government has extended the maximum loan available through the business loan scheme for large businesses (>£45m turnover) from £50 million to £200 million
- Statutory Sick Pay Rebate Scheme: employers will be able to make claims through the Coronavirus Statutory Sick Pay Rebate Scheme from 26 May. Guidance on making a claim is available on Gov.uk.