Ministers faced fresh calls to throw the aviation industry a lifeline today as figures showed an 85% plunge in “air transport services” in the coronavirus crisis.
Planes were grounded when countries around the world announced unprecedented lockdowns to combat the spread of Covid-19.
The sector has failed to recover with thousands of redundancies announced and ongoing travel restrictions.
Official figures studied by the Prospect union show the value of “air transport services” – flights – to the British economy dropped by 85% in the 12 months from October 2019.
Aircraft repair and maintenance – vital to firms like Rolls-Royce which has an ongoing contract to service plane engines – dipped by 24%
Aerospace manufacture, which includes companies like Airbus – which has bases in Bristol and Broughton, North Wales – fell by 16%.
The falls in the aviation industry far outstrip those in the economy was a whole, with an overall 8% drop in GDP in the year to October – meaning the sector has been disproportionately hit.
Airports and airlines were forced to slash jobs as coronavirus tightened its grip on the globe and planes ground to a halt.
British Airways is in the process of cutting 13,000 posts, Virgin Atlantic has announced 4,300 job cuts and EasyJet is shedding up to 4,500 roles.
Prospect general secretary Mike Clancy said: “For months trade unions, including Prospect, have been calling for a specific support package for the aviation sector, but despite warm words the Government has failed to deliver.
“Winter is traditionally the most difficult time for the aviation industry, with demand at its lowest in the early part of the year.
“The Government must act now to support the whole sector – airports, air traffic control and the supply chain, as well as airlines.
“If they don’t, services could be at risk, and in the longer term so many people will have left the industry it will hinder any recovery.
“There will not be a wide economic recovery and no levelling up without a recovery for our aviation sector.”
Airlines UK chief executive Tim Alderslade said: “Winter is traditionally a tough period for airlines at the best of times, and we know demand is going to be well down this year what with travel bans in place and a diminishing number of air corridors open.
“That’s why it’s so important ministers make as much progress with the next phase of the testing regime for aviation, so that we can get rid of the quarantine period as quickly as possible and ensure we have the best prospect of a decent summer 2021.
“It cannot be overstated just how important next summer is to the industry, as that’s when airlines will be looking to repay the billions of pounds of debt they’ve reluctantly taken on this year.
“If we cannot get people away in numbers next summer, the future of our industry will be very uncertain indeed.”
A Government spokesman said: “We recognise the challenging times facing the aviation sector as a result of Covid-19.
“Protecting jobs is an absolute priority and the extension of the furlough scheme, as well as wider support through action on airport slots, loans and tax deferrals, will help businesses safeguard jobs during winter.”