Airport chief calls for clarity on government’s plans to support aviation sector

Apr 01, 2020

London Luton Airport.

by ANDREW GIBBS e: news@businessmk.co.uk

TIME is of the essence if the UK airports and the aviation industry generally are to survive the global impact of the coronavirus, says the chief executive of London Luton Airport.

The airport has taken measures to protect the future of both the airport and that of the local and regional economy. 

Many airlines, headed by easyJet and Ryanair, have cancelled routes from Luton to Europe and beyond, although Wizz Air is still flying some routes to eastern and central Europe. So far the airport has avoided having to make redundancies, said chief executive Alberto Martin.

But he warned that the airport would take “decisive action to further protect the business if we need to.”

Alberto Martin, chief executive of London Luton Airport.

In a message posted on the airport’s website, Mr Martin said: “This unprecedented situation for the country and our industry has had a dramatic impact on the airport. We know this will have severe repercussions for all those associated with it. While we expect demand for air travel to start to return once travel restrictions are lifted, we are currently facing serious disruption.”

Airport executives have been in talks with staff, unions and its partners to take measures to protect the airport’s future. Underpinning the discussions has been immediate action to ensure the commercial viability of the business while continuing to maintain the highest standards of health and safety at the airport in line with guidance from Public Health England. 

Measures include:

  • A ban on all overtime
  • A freeze on all recruitment;
  • Restrictions on costs to essential expenditure only;
  • Closing parts of the terminal building and the long-term and medium-term car parks;
  • Suspending non-essential maintenance and project work;
  • A 20% reduction pay across the business with a 20% reduction in hours.

Mr Martin said that jobs could still be lost. “We will continue to react to the changing situation and will take decisive action to further protect the business if we need to. We know many of our partners at the airport have also implemented similar measures to protect the future of their businesses and in some cases have already had to go further. We hope they can return their usual operations soon.”

He has met with government transport and aviation ministers to stress the gravity of the situation.

“We have acted quickly and decisively to protect our business and our employees as best we can, but the situation is changing fast. In order for airports to survive and to continue to provide critical infrastructure the UK economy needs when this crisis is over, it is vital that the government takes measures to support us and protect the industry as a whole, now.

“Airports provide the connectivity which underpins the UK’s economy and will be essential in getting the country back up and running once the outbreak is finally contained. We welcome the news of a potential rescue package for airports and airlines, but time is of the essence. We urgently need clarity on what and how these measures will be implemented.”

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