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Published on Friday, January 29, 2021

Airport support grant virtually worthless, says Heathrow boss

The boss of Heathrow has ridiculed the government's offer of financial support, saying the maximum money available will cover less than two days' cash burn at the airport.

John Holland-Kaye branded the airport support programme as 'wholly inadequate'. 

The comments came after Transport Secretary Grant Shapps formally invited airports to apply for grants under the Airports and Ground Operations Support Scheme.

Shapps first announced the scheme in November, with grants of up to £8 million on the table.

Heathrow management said it will barely scratch the surface of its mounting costs.

"The Airport Support Scheme is wholly inadequate and discriminatory - the "relief" will cover less than a month of Heathrow's business rates bill and is less money than we are burning through in just two days," Hollland-Kaye said.

"Meanwhile, the Treasury has yet to explain why it has handed out £3 billion of rates relief to retail businesses that didn't need it while ignoring the worsening crisis facing our industry."

He said airports need 100% business rates relief, an extension to the furlough scheme 'and a roadmap to reopening borders safely'.

"Aviation is the lifeblood of the modern economy," Holland-Kaye said. "Our European rivals get it, which is why they have already pumped billions into their aviation sector to get them through the crisis.

"The UK Government's ambitions for Global Britain, and levelling up, will only happen if aviation survives."

Smaller airports were less critical, but said more help was required.

A spokesperson for Southend Airport said: "When originally announced last November, the scheme was very welcome and came alongside a real hope for an initial recovery in early 2021.

"However, the pandemic has taken a turn for the worse and the outlook for 2021 has worsened significantly.

"With our airport effectively closed again by the Government's travel restrictions, much more significant support is now needed to help us through the current crisis.

"This is essential to safeguard jobs and ensure London Southend is ready to play its part in boosting London and South Essex's post-pandemic and post-Brexit economic recovery."

But while airports regard the offer as derisory, news of the scheme riled other sectors of the industry when it was announced, with travel agents and operators yet to receive any targeted help.

Spires Travel tweeted: "Travel agents and tour operators need financial support as well. The last time our business had any income was February 2020. With all #travelcorridors closed for the foreseeable future it looks like we have another few months of no income."

By Steve Jones, Contributing Editor (UK)

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