Covid-19 Update 7
Wednesday 25 March 2020
Dear AOA Member,
After the major news of yesterday, we have spent today pressing our case to Ministers, in Parliament and in the media to urge the Government to take further, sector-wide steps – if necessary focusing only on airports and ground-based services, such as ground handling and air traffic control.
In light of the Chancellor’s letter, our focus has been on working through how the existing measures he pointed to could be adapted to an airport context and discussing ideas with officials. For example, could the scheme be amended to allow a skeleton staff to remain operational or could staff on furlough be allowed to return to duty for short, regular periods to maintain their professional currency or validations to do their role, without breaching the conditions of the scheme. The latter applies in particular to staff working in air traffic control, security and rescue & fire-fighting services, but could apply more widely.
We have made these points in calls with the Aviation Minister (last night) and the Business Secretary this morning. We have also sought support from the CBI and the British Chambers of Commerce, who have been very receptive to backing our points to Government.
In Parliament, a number of MPs and Peers with airports in their constituencies or an interest in aviation have made representations to Ministers privately while Gavin Newlands MP, SNP Transport spokesperson and MP for Glasgow Airport, raised the Government’s decision in Prime Minister’s Questions. The Transport Select Committee had an oral evidence session with the Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps, today and the AOA briefed both the Clerks and MPs on the Committee on our concerns and asks. In light of the COVID-19 crisis, the Committee met via Skype, so we could not keep an eye on it but a note of the evidence session will be published shortly.
In the media, you will have seen that the AOA has prominently made the case for airports, with particularly the Guardian and the Times publishing helpful articles. I was on the Today programme this morning, reiterating our case for support.
In addition to the small, helpful steps taken by Government mentioned in my update yesterday (which you can login to the AOA website to read – ask my colleague Patricia for your login details), a further step was taken by the DfT and CAA today by extending the validity of security training. For recurrent training that was due to expire between now and 1 July 2020, there will be a three month extension for people “not exercising their competence”, and six month extension for people “exercising their competence”. This comes after AOA made clear the importance of these type of alleviations, but we will continue to press for further steps.
Lastly, something that may interest some of our non-airport members: the Joint Security and Resilience Centre (JSaRC) is co-ordinating innovative and practical ideas from the security industry and academia regarding solutions and products that could be utilised, further developed or re-purposed in order to help the Government’s response to COVID-19. Please contact my colleague Tania for the details of how to submit ideas.