The International Air Transport Association (IATA) called on the UK government to include a vision for lifting border restrictions and restarting air transport in its recovery plans for the UK economy, due to be outlined on 22 February by Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
The COVID-19 shutdown of the UK economy has resulted in the biggest one-year decline in GDP since 1709. Air passenger numbers fell by 76% in 2020. London lost its position as the world’s most connected city. Around 860,000 aviation, travel and tourism jobs were lost or sustained only due to government furlough schemes. If current border restrictions remain in place, there is no prospect of a recovery in air transport and these negative impacts will continue, damaging the UK economy for a generation or more.
Prior to COVID-19, the UK aviation industry supported around 960,000 jobs and GBP 57 billion in GDP (direct, indirect or induced impacts). A further 465,000 jobs were supported through aviation-related travel and tourism. It is therefore vital that the air transport industry is included in the government’s plan for rolling back lockdown restrictions.
“We recognize that the government has a difficult balancing act between unlocking the economy and safeguarding public health. We are not demanding a date for border restrictions to be lifted. But Prime Minister Johnson must set out a vision for how international travel can and will be restarted as the pandemic ends. That vision would include explaining how a phased reduction of restrictions would work, and the levels to which infections or hospitalizations would need to fall to trigger those reductions. With this science-based approach locked in, the industry and the public will have the certainty to plan for take-off,” said Rafael Schvartzman, IATA’s Regional Vice President for Europe.