The travel and hospitality industries which have been pushed to crisis point by the coronavirus pandemic are calling on the UK government for support.

In aviation, union Unite said it had worked alongside aviation unions across Europe on a four-point plan, which it said the government must adopt to ensure the industry survives. It called for:

  • Contributions to cover workers’ pay, and the consideration of taking a commensurate financial stake in airlines and airports to help ensure their survival;
  • The extension of loans to airlines and airports and other aviation companies to enable them to ease the pressure of the immediate pay back of loans and to assist in the retention of staff and the preservation of routes;
  • A delay to payment of taxes and duties, including a temporary suspension or reduction in Air Passenger Duty;
  • The support of routes through subsidies under public service obligation rules.

It said:

“Unite believes that such assistance must apply to the whole industry including airports (national and regional) and its supply chain so that once the current crisis is over the industry can resume.

“Unite is engaged in negotiations throughout the aviation industry over staff taking voluntary unpaid leave, temporary lay-offs of workers and redundancies as the sector tries to contend with a huge and unprecedented drop in flights and passenger numbers with many routes currently not being flown at all.

“Other European countries including France, Germany, Italy and the Netherlands are already working on measures to support their aviation industries.”

Staff at many airlines, including British Airways, Norwegian and SAS, face redundancy or being asked to take unpaid leave.

Virgin Atlantic will fly just six of its 45 aircraft from March 26 and has asked staff to take eight weeks of unpaid leave.

Most airlines have now announced capacity cuts of between 70 and 90 per cent for the coming months.

Aviation and travel market intelligence provider CAPA yesterday warned that most of the world’s airlines face bankruptcy within two months.

The British Airline Pilots Association (BALPA) said today that without “significant government support” there may not be a UK aviation industry left.

BALPA General Secretary Brian Strutton, said:

“The UK aviation industry supports around half a million jobs. While times are tough for the industry and no doubt jobs will be affected in the short-term, if the industry is left to crumble entirely the long-term impact on our economy could be devastating.

“The effect may be temporary but we are facing a near total shutdown of UK aviation for the next two months at least. Airlines cannot survive that without help and Government needs to step in now with guarantees and funding.

“That means ensuring that the people who make this industry work are supported through this crisis.”

Peter Norris, chairman of Virgin Group, the majority shareholder in Virgin Atlantic, has asked the government for £7.5 billion in emergency state support for the industry.

Meanwhile Hospitality UK, a trade association representing restaurants, hotels and bars, has said the industry is four to six weeks away from running out of cash and warned the government it was facing “hundreds of thousands of redundancies” without urgent action, the Financial Times reports.

Turnover across the sector has already fallen by 70 per cent.

“Trade has dropped off a cliff. There is a need for urgency, it’s gone from manageable to catastrophic in 10 days,” Kate Nicholls, chief executive of the group, told the Financial Times.

The newspaper also states that the British Retail Consortium has called for the cancellation of business rates payments for three months, a delay in VAT, excise duty or National Insurance payments, bringing forward the import VAT deferment change announced in the budget to April and the creation of a business continuity insurance fund.

The government is expected to announce details of an economic rescue package today.