The recovery of the aviation sector has been a main focus of my work in Parliament this year. With Gatwick Airport in our borough’s boundary, we need to ensure that interruption faced by this industry is not only brief, but is followed by a swift bounce back.
To work towards this aim, in Parliament I established and Chair the Future of Aviation Group, a cross-party coalition of MPs supporting the industry and urging Government to take action to support Britain’s world-class aviation sector.
It is estimated that it could take a number of years to get international travel figures up to 2019 levels. We have heard the warnings, and it is time for action.
The Future of Aviation Group’s Aviation Recovery Plan, which has protecting jobs and supporting businesses at its heart, should be introduced by the Government without delay.
The plan highlights the need for COVID-19 testing and the salience of Government working with industry to introduce airport testing as a priority for passengers arriving from high-risk countries, with a negative test resulting in an early release from quarantine.
By not doing this we are limiting leisure travel, but also damaging our nation’s aspirations for global Britain.
Testing can be a part of a somewhat more nuanced approach to travel, ensuring passengers will travel safely, international trade can restart and assisting the aviation sector in its recovery.
I have been clear that aviation’s recovery is not only about flights and trade, it is about what the sector means to hard-working families and whose employees have in many cases given significant periods of their lives to the industry. To ensure security for them, we are calling for sector-specific extension of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.
Around 44,000 airline employees have been furloughed, and the Government deserves credit for acting swiftly to step in to keep workers on the payroll.
With passenger demand not expected to return for many months, going into years, the aviation sector would benefit from further support for its employees. Strict eligibility criteria would of course be required, potentially including businesses becoming ineligible upon reaching an agreed point of recovery.
Through the adoption of these and other policy recommendations we are making, the Government can be sure to reduce the scale of disruption of COVID-19 on this important industry.
A number of Crawley residents have contacted me in recent days about Air Passenger Duty. This issue is included in our plan; I continue to call for the suspension of this tax on flying until the end of the 2021 summer season at least, a point I have made directly to the Chancellor of the Exchequer in Parliament.
Henry Smith MP