On 28 March 2022 the Airport Operators Association launched its report Reconnecting the UK: recovering aviation connectivity.

The report shows that 2021 was worse than 2020, with airports seeing the lowest passenger numbers since 1983. It outlines the challenge ahead for the UK in recovering its pre-pandemic aviation connectivity, as further figures reveal:

  • UK airports lost £10bn in revenue since the first lockdown in March 2020 and have taken on more than £4bn in debt;
  • Passenger numbers in 2021 were down 12.7% on 2020 to 64.3m (1983: 61.1m), while European airports saw higher passenger numbers in 2021 than 2020;
  • Airports in Germany, Italy, Ireland and the US got up to nearly eight times as much financial support as UK airports did;
  • Tourism organisations across Europe are investing heavily in recovering pre-pandemic tourism numbers, while Visit Britain’s 2022-23 budget is as yet unconfirmed.

All this places UK airports at a competitive disadvantage as they seek to attract airlines back to flying routes from the UK. This is compounded by airlines expecting to operate smaller fleets this summer, higher fuel prices and the rising cost of living.

The AOA’s Reconnecting the UK report outlines the urgent need for the UK and devolved governments to set out a comprehensive aviation recovery plan, focused on the short term, alongside the UK and Scottish Government’s planned, longer-term aviation strategies. Such a recovery plan should include:

  • A twelve-month APD holiday to encourage airlines to put routes back into the UK;
  • A route development support package, which could include funding airport charges on certain routes;
  • Increases in the UK’s tourism marketing budgets to match those of our competitors;
  • Introducing duty-free upon arrival stores like Norway, Switzerland and other countries already have and the EU is considering at Calais to ensure the UK economy benefits from the recent increase to personal duty-free allowances.

Full Article