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UK airports could close without government support - industry body

·2-min read
Outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Birmingham

UK airports could close without government support - industry body

Outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Birmingham

LONDON (Reuters) - British airports urged the Prime Minister to provide bespoke support for the sector, warning that without it some could shut, ruining government hopes for UK trade as the country seeks new economic ties beyond the European Union.

A new lockdown in England started on Thursday, banning international leisure travel and wiping out the remaining meagre income airports had from the small number of passengers still flying despite quarantine rules.

UK Airport industry group AOA said that the latest lockdown would lead to more job losses and could floor some operators.

"Britain's global connectivity is on the line if government is not willing to support the industry," AOA said in a letter to Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

The situation was "unsustainable" and a package of support was needed, the letter said.

Britain's transition period with the European Union ends this year and the government has said it wants to boost trade with new markets across the world, but AOA said this would be "unachievable" if airports were not supported.

At the beginning of the first lockdown, many airports were financially robust, but the AOA said the new lockdown comes as the UK's mostly privately-owned airports are already struggling following eight months of the pandemic.

The group wants business rates relief for English airports, a temporary suspension of air passenger duty, and help with other costs such as funding the UK aviation regulator and policing.

It also wants new rules over a testing regime to replace Britain's quarantine rules to be in place by the end of the current lockdown on Dec. 2.

Britain's airlines and airports say that despite a government promise made in March to help the sector they have not had specific support, unlike other industries such as railway and bus operators and hospitality.

(Reporting by Sarah Young, Editing by Paul Sandle)