The Airport Operators Association (AOA) is the designated representative of the airports sector, working with the UK Government to aid the response and recovery from COVID-19’s severe negative impact. This page provides the latest information and advice.
If you have any queries / input regarding COVID-19 or would like to be added to our COVID-19 mailing list, please let us know through the enquiry form at the bottom of the page. A member of the team will be in touch with you soon. This is open to all organisations in the aviation sector including non-members.
AOA Members receive access to further information on the work AOA has been undertaking on COVID-19. As an example, some of our media activity can be found here.
Restrictions on activity due to COVID-19
UK Government Roadmap
On 22 February 2021, Prime Minister Boris Johnson outlined the UK Government’s approach to easing Covid-19 restrictions in England. Under the plan, International Travel will not be allowed before 17 May, and only if four criteria are met. In advance of that date, a detailed pathway to ending restrictions on international travel will be developed by the DfT – in conjunction with industry – via a successor to the Global Travel Taskforce that will develop a risk based “framework that can facilitate greater inbound and outbound travel as soon as the time is right, while still managing the risk from imported cases and variants”. The task force will report directly to the Prime Minister and will complete its work by 12 April. AOA will be feeding member views into this work over the next several weeks to ensure that the restart of aviation is swift and safe. The Government’s roadmap can be found here and the Prime Minister’s oral statement to MPs can be found here.
Following the publication of the roadmap, AOA’s response welcomed recognition of aviation’s important economic role, urged the approach to be on a four nation basis and called for sector specific financial support: our full response can be found here.
Restrictions on travel to the UK
Under current UK COVID-19 restrictions, people must not travel, including abroad, unless they have a legally permitted reason to do so.
Passengers travelling to the UK from outside the Common Travel Area must provide evidence of a negative PCR test result taken up to 3 days prior to departure and fill out a Passenger Locator Form. If a passenger does not comply and does not have a valid exemption, airlines may refuse boarding and/or passengers may be fined on arrival. Travel from the ‘red list’ of banned countries is only permissible if a passenger is a UK or Irish citizens or has the right to live in the UK. There are no direct flights from red-list countries
From 15 February 2021, passengers who have been in a red-list country within the last 10 days need to quarantine in a Government-approved hotel at their own expense and take tests on day 2 and day 8 of their isolation. Those travelling from all other countries must quarantine at home and undertake tests on day 2 and day 8 of their isolation, which have to be booked in advance. They can use the Test-to-Release system (details here) to voluntarily end their quarantine upon receipt of a negative PCR test. The most up-to-date information on quarantine and measures passengers are expected to follow can be found here.
In Scotland, the Scottish Government requires all travellers from outside the Common Travel Area who have travelled on a direct service to Scotland to enter the managed hotel quarantine – details can be found here. Northern Ireland does not have this requirement but it is expected to be introduced.
In order to keep critical sectors and national infrastructure operational, the UK Government has outlined here who is exempt from the quarantine measures. The Scottish Government’s list of exemptions can be found here.
Social Distancing, Lockdown and Self-Isolation
You can find further general information on COVID-19, including information on business and travel at www.gov.uk/coronavirus
Aviation sector-specific measures
Public Health Measures at UK Airports
The AOA worked closely with the Department for Transport, the Civil Aviation Authority and others in the UK aviation industry to set out public health guidelines for the restart of our industry. These guidelines were developed in collaboration with medical experts and were approved by the Government’s SAGE committee: they can be found here. These are updated as and when regulations change.
Guidelines advise passengers on what will be expected of them in the airport terminal and onboard aircraft as we emerge from the COVID-19 crisis, and also form the basis for airport operators and airlines individual responses and public health measures.
In June 2020, The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) issued a joint document defining measures to assure the health safety of air travellers and aviation personnel once airlines resume regular flight schedules following the severe disruption caused by COVID-19. Many of the measures included within the European protocol have found their way into the UK guidelines. The EASA/ECDC document can be found here. Additional guidance was published in December 2020 to support EU member states in co-ordinating their approach to reduce risk of transmission via air travellers.
- Delay to increase in CAA Charges: see ORS5 No. 359 Ref 359W – CAA Scheme of Charges Effective from 6 April 2020 to 31 March 2021
- Extensions to Licences, Ratings & Certificates: see ORS4 No.1437 – Covid-19 Outbreak: Extension of Validity Periods for Licences, Ratings and Certificates of Aircrew, Instructors, Examiners, Aircraft Maintenance Licence Holders and Air Traffic Controllers
- Extension to Dangerous Goods Training Licences: see ORS4 1465 Extension and exemptions for aircraft operators and agents of validity periods for recurrent dangerous goods training
- Easements for Rescue & Fire Fighting Services: CAA has, after a further review, extended the availability of the Rescue and Firefighting Service (RFFS) easements until 30 April 2021. This aligns with the Government’s furlough scheme. Click here for more information & FAQs
- Aviation Security: These have been communicated to you in the usual manner. Please contact DfT Aviation Security for further details
- Slots: The UK waived the 80/20 slot regulation in 2020 and in early 2021 announced a continued waiver on the slot usage regulation for the Summer 2021 season. The letter of intent from the UK Government can be found here.
Business rates for airports
The UK Government’s Airport and Ground Operations Support Scheme grants business rates relief for eligible commercial airports and ground operations companies in England, up to a cap of £8m. More information and the application portal is here.
The Scottish Government introduced non-domestic rates relief for airports and ground handling agents in Scotland in the financial year 2020/2021, as part of its relief measures for aviation, retail, hospitality and leisure businesses, and has extended this for the financial year 2021/2022.
Northern Irish hospitality, tourism and leisure businesses – plus Belfast City Airport, Belfast International Airport and the City of Derry Airport – are exempt from business rates in the financial year 2020/2021.
The Department for Transport has released guidance stating clearly that recreational (GA) flying is not permitted under the current lockdown in England. There are some exemptions, such as for flying training organisations providing training for professional pilots, or engine health and maintenance check flights where there is a critical safety requirement to do so. Please see the guidance for further information.
Aviation Skills Retention Platform
The Aviation Skills Retention Platform, supported by the Department for Transport and AOA, opened on Wednesday 10 February 2021 for industry registrations. The platform is designed to help retain vital skills within the industry and address the skills gap that existed prior to the pandemic. Aviation employers can use the platform as a recruitment talent pool of aviation specific skills. Organisations can sign up to the platform here and a helpful PDF offering guidance on how to register as an industry stakeholder can be read here. If you have any questions, please contact the DfT.
Critical workers are those whose work is critical to the coronavirus response. For transport, this includes those who will keep air, water, road and rail passenger and freight transport operating during the COVID-19 response, including those working on transport systems through which supply chains pass. It is up to businesses to decide which of their workers meet the requirements of being a critical worker.
Please note that all workers (including critical workers) should only be going to work if they are unable to do their job from home. Further guidance on working conditions for various settings can be found on the Government website here.
Coronavirus Act 2020
The Coronavirus Act 2020 includes provisions to close airports if Border Force is unable to maintain border security. The Aviation Minister wrote to airports with further information, which you can read here.
General measures for businesses
The UK Government’s dedicated Business Support website has information on general support schemes, including the following larger financial schemes:
- Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme – all employers will be eligible to apply for a government grant of 80% of workers salaries up to £2,500 a month. Information for employers here and employees here.
- Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme – Government-backed loans up to £5 million for businesses with a turnover of less than £45m per annum.
- Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Loan Scheme – Government-backed loans up to £25 million for businesses with a turnover between £45m-£500m per annum.
- Covid-19 Corporate Financing Facility – for large businesses rated investment grade or equivalent. Information can be found here.
Further measures and support in the devolved nations
- The Scottish Government’s dedicated Business Support website has information on its Small Business Grants and support for the Third Sector
- The Welsh Government’s dedicated Business Support website has information on access to finance through the Development Bank of Wales
- The Northern Ireland Executive’s NI Direct website has information on its Small Business Grant and Hospitality, Tourism and Retail Sector Grant Scheme