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Airport Operators Association (AOA) calls for ‘a clear recovery plan’ for aviation industry

The UK’s Airport Operators Association (AOA) has called on the government to outline a “clear recovery plan” for the aviation industry as the country’s travel restrictions continue.

Speaking at the Association’s annual conference, chief executive Karen Dee said: “Despite the recent welcome changes we still have a complicated system.

“The government has some way to go to set out a pathway to getting back to international travel with no restrictions.”

Dee pointed to other European countries which have opened up faster to international travel, and eased or simplified both outbound and inbound travel rules to help the industry recover.

“Other countries took a more pragmatic view and have seen passenger numbers recover more quickly. That has meant airlines moving fleets to where they can make more use of them,” she said.

“Europe’s restart has largely been driven by a more pragmatic approach to intra-European travel. Double vaccinated passengers no longer need to do any testing.

“Despite great progress on vaccines in the UK we didn’t see the kind of recovery we were hoping for.

“We’re seeing some boost in demand for the autumn and removal of the day two PCR test will instill more confidence. But we do not see this as ‘job done’.”

Dee also addressed the ongoing crisis for travel businesses in general – last month, two thirds (69 per cent) of travel sector employers said they were planning redundancies once wage support ended on 30 September.

“The government can’t ignore the fact that we’ve had 20 months with no income. Furlough was welcome and we’ve had business rates support, but both have come to an end and we’re in the loss-making season,” continued Dee.

“We’re not yet in recovery mode. We need a clear plan from government, a recovery plan to provide a supportive environment through policy and fiscal measures.”

Speaking at the same event, transport secretary Grant Shapps confirmed that routine traveller Covid testing – one of the travel rules and restrictions thought to be hindering the sector’s recovery – would continue into 2022.

“We will review our international travel policy once again in the new year to see if we can move even further towards restriction-free travel,” Mr Shapps told attendees.

He was more optimistic about the transition into next year, forecasting growth and some “welcome relief” for the industry.

“Global travel next year is predicted to grow significantly, coming after the worst two years on record. That will provide some welcome relief,” said Shapps.

“So, now it’s time to look forward to rebooting tourism and trade, to getting the fleet back up in the air where they belong, welcoming passengers back to busy airports, and securing an aviation recovery that is safe and sustainable.”

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