Whilst the extension of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, and its reinstatement that will mirror the position in August is to be welcomed, specific help for the aviation sector remains absent from any discussions. The Jet Zero Council has a focus on green air travel, but the biggest concern for the aviation sector is that it will not survive in order to be greener.
Social media is littered with comments about not having a holiday this year and travelling when it is ‘safe’ next year. What people seem to have omitted to consider is that without support for the sector now, there will not be planes to get on next year for their ‘safe’ holiday. And what is essential travel? Restrictions that keep family members from each other have far reaching consequences, particularly in relation to mental health and wellbeing. Many of us have family members around the world. Is visiting family a holiday?
The situation is compounded by the fact that aviation cannot diversify. There is no takeaway option. Perspex screening and distancing are not viable. Policies and procedures in respect of covid testing are inadequate to keep the industry moving at the moment. Those who work within the sector may have a skill set that would enable them to adapt to other roles, but that would require there to be jobs for people to go to. As we remain amid a global pandemic, how do people retrain, requalify and gain new careers? Surely, as the long-term goal is to have a viable UK aviation sector, the current focus should be on supporting an industry for the Jet Zero Council to work on making greener.
A couple of days ago it was reported that TfL was getting a ‘bailout’ to the tune of £1.8bn. TfL will continue to have passengers. As at the time of writing, the construction industry is set to remain open (and public transport is often the most efficient way for workers to reach sites within London), and people need to be able to commute to vital sectors within the economy where they cannot work from home. TfL will seemingly have a steady, but lesser income during lockdown.
For the aviation sector, livelihoods were taken away overnight in March, and whilst some flights continue to operate now, this will only be a small percentage of the normal traffic and that is likely to dwindle in the next couple of weeks as people return to the UK. Where is the support for UK aviation?
It is reported that the unemployment rate in the UK has reached its highest levels in three years (reported by ONS). The government should not be adding to this figure by jeopardising more roles within the aviation sector through a failure to offer support tailored to the industry. Focus on what needs doing now to preserve this vital industry.