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Latest news stories:
Airlines are lobbying government to allow flights, with no quarantine, from 45 countries (“air bridges”)
The UK is due to start imposing 14-day self quarantine on any passenger arriving in the UK, by air or ferry or train, from the 8th June. This is considered by many to be far too late, but the government claims this is a sensible time to impose it. But the airlines believe quarantine would mean nobody would want to travel to the UK, certainly not for a holiday. And they feel few Brits will want to go abroad, if they have to lock themselves away for 2 weeks. So the airlines are lobbying for no less than 45 COUNTRIES to be excluded, so people could enter the UK from those countries with no quarantine. The choice of countries appears to be those that Brits most like to travel to, with odd additions and omissions. The hope is that these countries will allow Brits to holiday there, and encourage their citizens to come here. The idea is that the "air bridges" would be between countries with low Covid transmission. The problem is that the UK rate of transmission is currently not low. There are serious concerns that allowing so many people to enter the UK would increase Covid transmission. There is also the risk of the "Dublin dodge" by which people in countries not on the air bridge list can still enter the UK, quarantine-free.
Open letter to ICAO – the CORSIA scheme should not be weakened, just because of Covid
Thirteen organisations concerned with aviation carbon emissions and carbon trading, have written to ICAO to ask that they stick to the intentions for how the CORSIA scheme is set up, and do not weaken it. The stated purpose of CORSIA is to help the international aviation sector achieve “carbon-neutral growth from 2020”. It is due to use as a baseline the aviation CO2 emissions from 2019 and 2020. However, with the Covid pandemic, airline carbon emissions will be much lower than anticipated this year. If ICAO used 2019 and 2020, the amount of carbon the sector could emit, and the cost of emitting it, would be far lower than anticipated. So IATA wants to change the rules, so the carbon baseline only considers 2019, not including 2020, which would result in significantly lower offsetting requirements for airlines compared to the current CORSIA design. In fact, under most recovery scenarios, the change sought by IATA would eliminate all offsetting requirements for the duration of the CORSIA pilot phase and potentially several years thereafter. The rules need to be adhered to.
“Aviation Climate Alliance” – first newsletter – what could the post-Covid aviation sector look like?
Many organisations are united in their determination that when the aviation sector emerges from the Covid pandemic and lockdown, it will have to be slimmed down, and commit to effective and real cuts in its carbon emissions. There will need to be low-carbon jobs, in place of jobs in high carbon sectors that will need to change. A new informal grouping has been formed, between trade union and environmental campaigners, to help push for environmental and climate conditions being placed on any government assistance for the aviation sector, and more "green" jobs in future. It is named the "Aviation Climate Alliance", and its membership includes AirportWatch, the PCS union, the Stay Grounded movement, the Campaign Against Climate Change, and the Aviation Communities Forum (ACA). It will produce regular newsletters, putting many of the news items and relevant pieces of information together, to help campaigners access the news and facts. The first newsletter has been produced, and can be seen (see link). It was kindly put together by Tahir Latif, of the PCS union. To be added to the mailing list, email@example.com.
New “Future of Aviation Group” set up – Chair Henry Smith MP – “to fight for the future of UK aviation”
The aviation sector has fared very badly (as have so many others) in the Covid pandemic lockdown. People have not been able to travel, for the genuine reason that the number of infections needs to be reduced, to keep people safe from a disease that can make some people very ill indeed. The sector wants preferential treatment by government, to help it out. It always tries to make out that it is vital to the economy (in reality, must of the aviation industry sucks British money abroad, as Brits spend on their foreign trips and holidays). Now MP for Crawley, Henry Smith, has set up a new industry lobby group, calling itself the Future of Aviation Group. He has written, with 3 other MPs, to Secretary of State for Transport, Grant Shapps, asking for clarity about how the recovery of the sector can be supported by government. They want clarity from government on many issues including quarantine arrangements for all passengers arriving in the UK; clarity on the Covid health measures airlines should agree internationally; consideration of business rates relief; and support for domestic air routes.
Jet2 holidays and flights secured with emergency £172 million cash boost
Jet2 and Jet2holidays are owned by the Dart Group, based in Leeds. It grounded all flights since March, due to Covid, and is planning on re-starting some after the 1st July. Now the company has managed to raise £172 million in a bid to stave off the impact of coronavirus. To raise the money to keep the company afloat, with no flights, it has managed to pool together an extra £172 million by selling almost 30 million shares to investors. These were sold at a price of 576.5 pence per share, with the scheme apparently "significantly oversubscribed". This may keep the company solvent for the next few months. They hope to be able to encourage as many Brits as possible to take bucket and spade holidays, and city breaks, as soon as possible. Campaigners at Transport & Environment (T&E) have produced a tracker, for state bailouts of airlines in Europe, with details of amounts, conditions etc, which can be seen at https://www.transportenvironment.org/sites/te/files/Airline-bailout-tracker_8_May_2020.pdf
BA cancels all flights from Leeds Bradford Airport to Heathrow
British Airways has cancelled all its flights from Leeds Bradford airport to Heathrow. It is dropping a number of routes as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, which will see its network shrink. They must know that the Leeds Bradford link does not make them money. For many years the Leeds Bradford to Heathrow route was operated by British Midland, which later became BMI. It dropped the link in 2009, citing lack of profitability. BMI was later subsumed within British Airways. BA re-launched the service between Leeds Bradford and Heathrow in 2012. But the route has always struggled commercially - rail to London is a better option. Initially there were three round-trips a day, but for the summer 2020 schedule – which never began – only 10 departures each way were planned. It was Yorkshire’s last air connection with London. Most passengers will either move to Manchester flights or use the LNER rail link, which reaches the capital from Leeds in around 2 hours, 15 minutes. Leeds Bradford is pressing ahead, rather bizarrely, with expansion plans. Heathrow always made out that increasing air "connectivity" to the regions was a key benefit of a 3rd runway (that is also now seriously delayed ... if it ever happens ..)
UK tourism deficit, by air travel in 2019, was £30 billion – casting serious doubt about the industry’s claims to be vital to the UK economy
Each year the Office for National Statistics (ONS) publishes data on the number of journeys are made by British residents abroad (leisure and business), and the amount they spend on their travel and while abroad. They also collect comparable data for visits to the UK. The documents can be found in the ONS Travel Trends data. Each year there is a "tourism deficit" which is the amount by which the expenditure on trips abroad by UK residents exceeds the amount spent by visitors to the UK. It is a huge sum, generally thought to be in the region of £15 to £22 billion in recent years. Now the ONS have realised they have made errors in how data has been gathered, underestimating the amount being spent by Brits abroad. While the tourism deficit (all travel modes) was thought to be £22.5 billion in 2018, it is now thought to be £31billion. The tourism deficit for 2019 is now known to have been £33.9 billion. It is also possible to work out how much of this is due to air travel, and that is about 88%. So the tourism deficit due to air travel was actually just over £30 billion in 2019. This is worth remembering, when the industry claims it is so vital to the UK economy. In 2019 under 10% of trips abroad by UK residents were on business. The rest were various forms of leisure.
UK had a tourism deficit of £33.9 billion in 2019, with 88% of that (ie. about £30.04 billion) due to air travel
The current clampdown on international air travel has helped the UK Balance of Payments, by reducing the country’s trade deficit by almost £3 billion per month. This is from the "tourism deficit", which is the amount by which the amount spent by British people travelling and spending abroad, exceeds the amount spent by visitors to the UK. Figures released on 22nd May by the government's Office of National Statistics (ONS) show that the UK posted a record trade deficit of £33.9 billion on international tourism in 2019. This is more than £2 billion above the 2018 figure which was itself a record tourism trade deficit. The ONS data shows 88.2% of the tourism deficit was due to air travel. UK residents made 93.1 million visits abroad in 2019, spending a total of £62.3 billion overseas. By contrast, overseas residents made 40.9 million visits to the UK, spending £28.4 billion. The net result was a £33.9 billion deficit in the UK Balance of Payments. Just 9.0 million of the 93.1 million overseas visits (9.7%) by UK residents in 2019 were for business purposes. The lack of money leaving the UK comes at the expense of countries such as Spain, Greece and Italy losing billions of €s in revenue from UK tourists.
Home Secretary announces new 14 day quarantine for all UK arrivals – from 8th June. To be reviewed in 3 weeks
New measures at the UK border to guard against a 2nd wave of coronavirus infections have been announced by the Home Secretary. They include 14 days’ self-isolation for anyone entering the UK, bar a relatively short list of exemptions. The government takes the view that as the number of Covid infections in the UK falls, we cannot afford to have more entering from abroad, though they did not see the necessity to do this earlier.Anyone arriving at an airport, or other place of entry, will have to have filled in a contact form, with the address at which they will be staying. In theory, people will be required to self-isolate for 14 days and could have spot-checks during the period to ensure compliance. It is unclear by whom; the police do not have the resources to do so. There is theoretically a fine from breaching self-isolation, of £1,000. That limit might rise, if the infection risk rises in future. The measures will be reviewed in 3 weeks time. People should use personal transport, such as a car, to travel to their accommodation where possible. Once they arrive there, they should not leave their accommodation for 14 days, even to get food, if possible.
UK airports likely to cut £1bn of construction projects: construction industry setback
The Covid crisis and the dramatic cut in demand for air travel means airport expansion projects will not be going ahead any time soon. As much as £1bn of capital investment is now on ice, deferred or cancelled, according to analysis by Construction News. Heathrow's plans for a 3rd runway are now delayed, if not entirely cancelled. Heathrow had a capital expenditure budget of £1.1 billion for 2020, but this has been cut to about £450 million. Of that it had already spent £224m on capital works in the 1st quarter of 2020. That means far less work for construction firms. Gatwick says it is deferring its capital expenditure plans “for the foreseeable future”. Birmingham Airport is delaying a £30m extension of its terminal indefinitely, even though ground was broken on the project at the start of the year. Edinburgh Airport has said expenditure on some projects would be deferred. Longer-term projects have also been hit. Luton Airport says it would no longer submit its DCO for the construction of a 2nd terminal in June, with no new date given. There is no detail of plans for Manchester and Stansted airport works. There will be jobs lost in the construction sector, with more competition for what work there is.
Gatwick has been urged to drop expansion plans by GACC campaigners due to the Covid pandemic
There are almost no flights at Gatwick, nor have there been for weeks, due to the Covid pandemic lockdown. When flights will resume is not known, but even aviation optimists think it could take 3-4 years (or more) for air travel demand to again reach the level in 2019 - if it ever does. However, the airport says it is still going ahead ahead with plans to bring its current emergency runway into use as a full runway. But local campaign, GACC (the Gatwick Area Conservation Campaign) has written to Gatwick's CEO, Stewart Wingate, asking the airport to drop its expansion plans, arguing not only that there is no credible demand case, but it would be incompatible with national and local environmental goals. Peter Barclay, GACC chairman, said the group sympathised with employees and others whose jobs had been affected, but believes there is no credible case for expansion at Gatwick. It is also undesirable that the planning process would absorb council and other resources that should be focused on supporting people and businesses impacted by the pandemic. GACC says the plans for the emergency runway should be withdrawn.
Independent aircraft noise commission ICCAN calls on UK government to prioritise aviation noise issues post-COVID-19
As aviation experiences an all-time low in demand for air travel, ICCAN - the UK’s Independent Commission on Civil Aviation Noise - has proposed to use the unique opportunity to address aviation noise once services begin to increase post COVID-19. ICCAN has called on the UK government to make managing aviation noise a key priority after the pandemic restrictions, when aviation levels begin to increase again. In a letter to Grant Shapps and Kelly Tolhurst, ICCAN’s Head Commissioner, Rob Light, argued that the unprecedented situation should be seen as a chance to rebuild the sector in a more "sustainable" way. This means on noise, as well as on carbon emissions. ICCAN believes that there must be a clear, consistent and transparent approach to noise mitigation and, therefore, the current ways of working must change. The dramatic cut in aircraft noise due to the pandemic is a unique opportunity to understand the impact of noise nuisance from planes. It is expected that when flights resume, aircraft noise will seem more noticeable, and will generate a significant negative reaction from local communities. This has to be taken seriously in future.
Grant Shapps plan for ‘air bridges’ for holidaymakers to fly on holiday hit by Cabinet backlash
Only two days earlier, Grant Shapps came up with the suggestion that flights might be resumed, without a requirement for quarantine, between the UK and some countries with low rates of Covid-19 spread - called "air bridges." But now there has been a Cabinet backlash against this (rather bonkers) idea. The travel industry is desperate to get people flying again, on holiday, and are lobbying Shapps hard, to be allowed to resume as fast as possible. Now Number 10, the Foreign Office and Home Office are said to have branded the idea “unworkable” and it was not authorised. A government source said: "It was just Grant freelancing ...he's got the airlines on his back ... " And "Grant Shapps is trying to protect what he can of the tourist and airline industry because he doesn’t want them to fail on his watch.” Although the 14 days quarantine for any passenger entering the UK has not yet been finally agreed, it is thought it will be reviewed every 3 weeks. The concept of anything like an "air bridge" is a long way off. There are concerns about the economic hit for countries that have become dependent on UK tourists.
DfT ‘refuses to back down’ over £27bn roads legal challenge over carbon emissions
In April the Transport Action Network (TAN) revealed its intentions to launch a legal application to the High Court, as the DfT ignored environmental legislation in approving the five-year funding plan. Now the DfT have given TAN's lawyers its official response. It has “refused to back down”. The legal challenge by TAN was made, as a result of the judgement by the Appeal Court in February, on the Heathrow case. It ruled that the Airports National Policy Statement (ANPS) was illegal, as proper consideration had not been given to carbon emissions and the UK's obligations under the Paris Agreement. The DfT letter claims, rather improbably, that decarbonisation will be addressed ‘at a society-wide level’ and its largest ever roads plan in fact ‘is a fully-integrated part of this wider effort to reach net zero emissions’. The legal challenge, by the same lawyers who won the Heathrow case, will proceed with the case on road building. As the courts found the ANPS was illegal, any other NPS will have to take carbon properly into account. Heathrow is appealing to the Supreme court on the February ruling, with a hearing on the 9th and 10th October.
Bath and North East Somerset Council rejects Bristol Airport application to increase night flights in summer months
Bath and North East Somerset Council has rejected an application by Bristol Airport to increase the number of night flights. The airport wants to increase the number of night flights to 4,000 throughout the whole year, starting in summer 2021. Currently the airport is allowed 3,000 night flights throughout the summer months and 1,000 in winter. The airport wants to be able to move some of their winter allocation to the summer, when demand is higher. Bath and North East Somerset Council rejected the application - stating it would have a negative impact on people living in towns near the airport. The request for more flights comes after the council opposed the expansion of Bristol Airport in March 2019. Then in March 2020 North Somerset Council threw out the plans, (which included increasing passenger numbers by an extra two million each year and building more car parks) on the grounds they were “incompatible” with the council’s declaration of a climate emergency. The extra night flights would cause noise nuisance to people in both councils.
The Covid-19 crisis should be the catalyst for “greening” the world’s airlines
The Covid pandemic provides a vital opportunity to reduce the scale of the aviation sector, and its carbon emissions. Any rescue packages for airlines or airports need to come with "green" strings, such as lower CO2 emissions and more efficient taxation, to cut demand for air travel. As oil prices are so low, there is the danger that air tickets will be cheap, once flying resumes - even if airlines can only sell a % of their seats, due to "social distancing." The sector has enjoyed low taxes for too long. It is time jet fuel was properly taxed, especially on domestic routes - where there is direct competition with rail travel. The Covid crisis has weakened airline claims that they should be treated as profit-seeking independent companies rather than public entities with social responsibilities. European governments have probably agreed €12.7bn in bailouts, with another €17.1bn under discussion. Even before Covid the airline industry was feeling public pressure from “the Greta effect”, "flying shame", Extinction Rebellion and the Appeal Court decision to block Heathrow expansion on climate grounds. The CO2 from aviation needs to be incorporated fully into national climate targets.
Possible UK plan for “air bridges” letting in passengers from some countries, so people can have foreign holidays…
Grant Shapps, Transport Secretary, has said there might be “air bridges” between countries with low coronavirus infection rates. The 14 day quarantine, that might be imposed from around the start of June on arriving passengers (still not confirmed) might then be relaxed in favour of a more targeted focus on people from high-risk countries. It seems likely that the 14 day quarantine will start, for all passengers, with spot checks on people and possible £1,000 fines for those who breach the rules. Any restrictions would be reviewed every 3 weeks to ensure that they “remain effective and necessary”. The idea of "air bridges" is to let people enter the UK - presumably without quarantine, if the R number (itself very hard to calculate or get a reliable figure on, without widespread effective testing) is below (?about) one. So the thinking is that it would be OK for people to arrive in the UK, as long as they only spread Covid to less than one other person, on average. The travel and aviation industries are desperate to get people flying again, and trying to convince people that the risk of personal infection is low - and convince governments that Covid infection, costing the UK a fortune, will not rise again, due to imported virus.
14 day quarantine for anyone arriving in the UK from abroad
It is expected that there will soon be official announcement of the requirement for anyone entering the UK to be in quarantine (self-isolate) for 14 days. This would not only mean air passengers but those arriving also by ferry or the Channel Tunnel. It seems likely that the suggested exemption of those coming from France will be abandoned, as that could not logically be defended. Ministers are expected to meet today to agree what one called “a very tight set of exemptions”. Michael O’Leary, the chief executive of Ryanair, said that the policy was “idiotic and it is unimplementable”, and many people would refuse to follow the rules. He wants people filling up his planes and making him money as fast as possible, and quoted some study implying that if everyone wore masks in planes and airports, it would cut Covid transmission by ?98% or so. It is understood that hauliers, lorry drivers, will make up two thirds of those not required to self-isolate for two weeks. Leo Varadkar, the Irish prime minister, has said that a 14-day quarantine period will be mandatory for all passengers arriving at Irish ports and airports, including British citizens.
Supreme Court to hear Heathrow appeal, against judgement on the Airports NPS by the Appeal Court, on 7th and 8th October
The Supreme Court has announced that it will hear an appeal from Heathrow Airport and Arora Group on Wednesday 7th and Thursday 8th October 2020 on the plans to expand Heathrow Airport by adding a third runway. The appeal was granted by the Supreme Court on 7th May, but the dates of the appeal were announced today. Granting of the appeal by the Supreme Court followed an earlier landmark ruling by the Court of Appeal at the end of February which stated that the government has not taken into account the Paris climate change agreement when drawing up its plans to expand Heathrow. Reacting to the news of the hearing dates, Paul McGuinness, Chair of the No 3rd Runway Coalition, said: “These dates are sooner than some expected. Perhaps because the Supreme Court is as keen to clarify this important area of developing law, as our communities are anxious to see Heathrow expansion shelved, once and for all. “The sooner this misguided project is put of its misery, the better. So we welcome these dates.”
IATA: over 2/3 of travellers will not fly if it means quarantine period – long-haul will be hit hard
A new survey by IATA indicates that the majority of air travellers will not take a trip if it involves a 14-day quarantine period. It is thought the UK will confirm it is introducing a 14 day quarantine period soon. The IATA survey of recent air travellers found that 86% were “somewhat or very concerned about being quarantined while travelling”, while 69% “would not consider travelling if it involved a 14-day quarantine period”. The airlines, of course, are not happy about this - and want measures that encourage flying - (even if things like taking temperatures is ineffective in preventing virus spread). The survey also found that 58% of air travellers “are somewhat or very likely to restrict their initial travel to domestic journeys”, and IATA warns that international revenue passenger kilometres (RPKs) are not expected to return to 2019 levels until 2024 - so long haul travel will be hit hardest. Rebuilding passenger confidence will take a long time, if there is the risk of serious illness. People will not fly if they are not confident, unless there is an effective vaccine. And they will not fly if it involves too much hassle.
Greenpeace activists occupy a Schiphol runway to protest coronavirus aid to polluting aviation sector
Greenpeace activists occupied a runway at Schiphol airport on 14th May morning, to protest against the billion €s in support going to the aviation sector during the coronavirus crisis. Greenpeace wants strict sustainability conditions to be attached to this aid. The Koninklijke Marechaussee, a policing force that works as part of the Dutch military and is responsible for airport security, said it would detain the 11 Greenpeace activists who were protesting, and remove them from the Aalsmeerbaan runway at Schiphol. The runway is currently being used to park KLM planes. They brought a small bridge with them to get across the ditch that separates the public road from the secured area at Schiphol, and bicycles to get to the runway as quickly as possible. Greenpeace said: "KLM emits more CO2 than the largest coal-fired power station in the Netherlands." The government should only give KLM funding if it has to cut carbon emissions. This has to be done by more fuel efficiency, fewer flights, and short haul flights replaced by train journeys. Greenpeace also wants conditions attached to aid for other major polluters.
Boris says in Parliament “Aviation, like every other sector, must keep its carbon lower” post-Covid
Caroline Lucas asked: "Last week, climate experts reported that green economic recovery packages deliver far higher returns than conventional stimulus spending. They also warned that how we emerge from this coronavirus crisis must not be in a way that deepens the climate and nature emergencies. Does the Prime Minister agree? Will he commit to action that will help us to build back better, and start by confirming that any airline queuing up for a taxpayer handout must be required to meet robust climate goals?" Boris Johnson replied: "I think the best and shortest answer I can give to the hon. Lady is that we totally understand the situation with aviation. Clearly, inadvertently this year the planet will greatly reduce its carbon dioxide emissions, and she is absolutely right that we need to entrench those gains. I do not want to see us going back to an era of the same type of emissions as we have had in the past. Aviation, like every other sector, must keep its carbon lower. We are certainly working on technological solutions to ensure that we can do that."
European Commission will keep intra-European aviation within the ETS, as well as being in the ICAO’s CORSIA scheme
ICAO's planned global scheme for offsetting emissions from international flights will supplement, not replace, the European Union carbon market, the EU’s transport commissioner has now said. With the United Nations (ICAO) planning a 2021 launch of CORSIA, clarity is needed that the European Commission will not remove aviation from the EU emissions trading system (ETS). Transport Commissioner, Adian Valean said: “CORSIA will not put the ETS at stake. It will not replace the ETS. It will complement the ETS.” The ETS only covers flights between European countries, not outside Europe. It is a more effective scheme, in incentivising lower carbon emissions, than CORSIA - which is very weak. But ICAO wants the EU to remove these flights from its carbon market so that CORSIA can be the only market-based measure tackling international aviation emissions. The Commission, the 27-nation EU’s executive is assessing how the two systems will co-exist. It is important that EU flights outside Europe are in the CORSIA scheme, and Europe participates - otherwise other countries may also decide not to take part.
Leeds Bradford airport submits plans for new terminal building & more passengers (4m to 7m a year) despite Covid fall in demand.
The airport has submitted a planning application to Leeds City Council, to replace the current terminal building with a new one by 2023, to increase passenger numbers from 4 million a year to 7 million a year. Opponents to the plans say that will make the climate emergency "worse" and that the current pandemic means there's "no need" for it. Local people, in Group for Action on Leeds Bradford Airport (GALBA) say the expansion will increase CO2 emissions, at a time when countries around the world are being urged to drastically then. It will also bring more noise for local communities, increased air pollution, and more traffic congestion. Instead "We need to rebuild a healthy economy in Leeds. We don’t need an unsustainable development like this.” Leeds City Council declared a climate emergency in 2019, but conveniently does not include the CO2 emissions from the airport's flights in its carbon budget. But the flights alone would exceed Leeds’ entire carbon budget by 2035. The airport is trying hard to persuade the Council that its expansion is needed, in competition with Manchester, and the (alleged) economic benefits it would bring would be huge.
EPA proposes first-ever CO2 standard for new planes, but it is unlikely to be stringent enough
The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has sent a proposed rule on a standard to cut greenhouse gas emissions from new airplanes to the White House for review. This is years overdue. The US has never regulated CO2 emissions from planes, in part because the aviation sector was omitted from major international climate agreements, including Kyoto and Paris. The EPA hasn’t released. Tiny efficiency gains are eclipsed by the growth in the number of flights and air passengers. Daniel Rutherford, shipping and aviation director at the ICCT said the CO2 standard for new planes is so plane makers can sell their new planes internationally in future. But the aviation sector tends to introduce so-called ‘technology-following standards,’ so instead of looking ahead and setting new targets for technology, it tends to say, ‘OK, let’s see what’s already developed and see that it’s deployed in all aircraft.' What might have been groundbreaking a decade ago, is now just what most planes can already achieve. Huge lack of ambition.
Manchester Airports Group to get £260m that its 10 council owners borrow from government
In the absence so far of financial support from government, the ten Greater Manchester local authorities - which have a majority stake (64.5%) in the Manchester Airports Group (MAG) - are planning to borrow themselves in order to lend £250 million to it. MAG owns Manchester, Stansted and East Midlands airports. The councils have privately agreed to take out significant levels of low-interest borrowing from the government’s loan board. They may not start to see any repayments for a couple of years, but are hoping that by that point it will have returned to some semblance of normality. Manchester council is expected to provide the biggest share of the loan package, at around £143m, in line with its larger stake in the company. It is understood the other nine boroughs are expected to put in £13m each. Senior local authority figures said the move was aimed at protecting significant long-term town hall investment in the airport, along with safeguarding tens of thousands of jobs that rely on it as a major engine of the local economy. Manchester airport still has a couple of arriving flights per day. It is possible that as many as 50,000 jobs may be directly, or indirectly, linked to the airports. If the sector has to shrink in future, many of those jobs may be lost.
Government may announce a compulsory 14 day Covid quarantine period for all travellers entering the UK
UK airlines say they have been told the government will bring in a 14-day quarantine for anyone arriving in the UK from any country apart from the Republic of Ireland in response to the coronavirus pandemic. The new restriction is expected to take effect at the end of May. People arriving in the UK (plane, ship, rail) would probably have to give their name, passport details and address where they will be staying. They will have to self-isolate themselves for two weeks. How this will be enforced is not yet clear, but there could perhaps be random checks by local authority etc staff. Maybe fines if found not complying properly. It is deeply unsatisfactory that, until now, thousands of passengers arrive per day (around 10,000 per day now) and leave airports etc, with just a bit of general guidance about social distancing etc. Other countries have taken a far harder line already, but not the UK. These restrictions on movement by those arriving in the UK should have been implemented weeks ago, when the government said they were not needed. Now the airlines and airports are very angry this is being imposed, at a time when they were hoping for a return to air travel. Hardly anyone will want to go on a holiday / leisure flight, or even a business trip, with 14 day quarantine.
Willie Walsh says Heathrow’s 3rd runway will never be built. Covid was its final straw …
Willie Walsh, head of IAG (parent company of British airways) has been a long standing opponent of a 3rd Heathrow runway. That is because it would provide more space for airline competitors of BA, and it would put up landing charges - deterring BA passengers using Heathrow. Now, with the Covid pandemic, he says plans for a 3rd runway should be abandoned totally. He does not expected air travel to return to 2019 levels until at least 2023, as there will be less demand for business and leisure travel, and people will continue to be afraid of contracting the virus. The only way to prevent more disease being brought into the country by returning air passengers is to ensure they are fully in quarantine for 14 days after their return. That would deter most air travel, if quarantine was fully enforced. Willie Walsh is also opposed to the runway plans, and it would mean compulsory purchase of BA's office building, Waterside. (Walsh jokingly says he is ready to sell it to Heathrow tomorrow ... but it not expecting they will ask any time soon). Walsh cannot see Heathrow being able to raise the necessary finance for a runway, which means adding to its already vast debt.
Supreme Court grants Heathrow and Arora permission to appeal against the Appeal Court ruling on the ANPS
In February, the Appeal Court ruled that the government's Airports National Policy Statement (ANPS) was illegal, because it had not taken properly into account the UK's responsibilities on carbon emissions, or commitments under the Paris Agreement. For a Heathrow 3rd runway to go ahead, it has to be in line with the necessary policy document, the ANPS. That document is now invalid in law, and will remain so until it is amended to rectify its deficiencies. It is for the Secretary of State for Transport to do that, but the government declined to challenge the Appeal Court judgement. So Heathrow, and Arora Holdings (the two organisations hoping to get a 3rd runway built) asked the Supreme Court for permission to appeal the Appeal Court decision. That has now been granted, by the Supreme Court. The legal process is slow, and could take as much as a year. It will probably cost a lot of money, at a time when Heathrow is haemorrhaging money, with minimal income, due to Covid. Only a day earlier, CEO of Heathrow, John Holland-Kaye admitted there would not be a need for a 3rd runway for 10-15 years. Heathrow wants this drag on and on and on ...
Holland-Kaye admits to Transport Committee that Heathrow runway not needed for 10 – 15 years, if things go well
Campaigners are calling for Heathrow to drop its plans for expansion, following comments made by its Chief Executive, John Holland-Kaye, to the Transport Select Committee. At the virtual hearing on Wednesday 6th May, he said a 3rd runway wouldn’t be needed for around 10 – 15 years. Holland-Kaye was asked by Lilian Greenwood MP if the crisis facing the industry caused by the Covid-19 pandemic had created a hole in the economic case for a third runway at Heathrow. He said he was no longer thinking about the 3rd runway, but that if the UK is able to reboot the economy and demand returns to the pre-pandemic levels of flying, he believes the 3rd runway may “be needed in 10-15 years’ time.” Nobody can know at present how much air travel demand will recover in the next few years. The No 3rd Runway Coalition are calling on Heathrow to drop its plans for a third runway with immediate effect. This includes appealing a Court of Appeal ruling which stated climate targets had not been taken into account when the Government prepared the Airports NPS, with plans for Heathrow expansion.
CAA says Gatwick proposal for a 2nd runway would not need airspace change, for the 50,000 extra flights on a 2nd runway
Gatwick airport has said will push ahead with plans for a 2nd runway after the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) ruled that the plan for another runway will not require changes to the airspace around Gatwick. That had potentially threatened to pose a significant barrier. The CAA (paid for by the airlines) that is the regulator for the airlines, said that there would be no change to the design of flight paths in or out of Gatwick as a direct result of the new runway, adding: “The environmental impact relating to this proposal is assessed as nil.” [Presumably they are ignoring the carbon emissions which will not, of course, be nil]. Gatwick wants to have an extra 50,000 annual flights (up from around 285,000 now) by using its existing emergency runway as a full runway, part of the time. The airspace consent by the CAA effectively allows Gatwick to push ahead with a DCO (Development Consent Order), which is needed for the development, Currently the airport has been hit very hard by the Covid pandemic, with flights down by over 98% compared to last year, airlines facing almost no air travel demand, saying they may leave Gatwick, for Heathrow.
Covid-19: Virgin Atlantic to cut 3,000 jobs and shut down Gatwick operations
Virgin Atlantic has announced it is to cut more than 3,000 jobs in the UK and end its operation at Gatwick airport, due to the collapse in air travel demand because of the Covid-19 pandemic. This comes soon after rival British Airways said it could not rule out closing its Gatwick operation. Virgin was Gatwick's 9th largest airline, while British Airways was the 2nd largest, after EasyJet, which is largest - Norwegian is 3rd largest. Virgin Atlantic said it will move its flying programme from Gatwick to Heathrow, but it intends to keep its slots at Gatwick "so it can return in line with customer demand". The job losses amount to about 30% of the total (the job losses at BA are 28%). Virgin Atlantic also plans to reduce the size of its aircraft fleet from 45 to 35 by the summer of 2022. Even the lobby group, Airlines UK admits that "Airlines are having to adapt to a sector that will be smaller and leaner in future, with no guarantees as to when we will return to pre-crisis levels." When lockdown restrictions ease and flight schedules are increased again, there will be fewer passengers, fewer and probably more expensive flights and thousands of job losses. The area around Gatwick was too dependent on the airport for jobs etc.
Covid-19: UK Government ‘actively looking at’ quarantining UK airport arrivals
The UK Government is “actively looking at” quarantining, for Covid-19, people arriving from abroad - due to criticism about the UK dragging its feet on this, compared to other parts of the world. Currently, there are no health checks on passengers arriving into the UK. Many other countries have banned all but their own citizens and residents from incoming flights - while other nations have regional restrictions. There are reports the UK Government is considering forcing all arrivals to undergo two weeks of quarantine as they arrive in the country, to prevent the arrival of new Covid cases. Grant Shapps has said that we need to ensure the sacrifices, of lockdown and social distancing, that the Government has asked the British people to make are matched by anybody who comes to the country. The Scottish Health Secretary has said she thinks air passengers should have to quarantine themselves. Airlines, of courses, are not keen as they say a compulsory period fo quarantine would kill air travel. Lobby group, Airlines UK, said a quarantine would "completely shut off the UK from the rest of the world when other countries are opening up their economies" - ignoring the fact that most air travel (over 80%) is for leisure.
Warren Buffett’s company Berkshire Hathaway sells all its shares in the 4 largest US airlines
Billionaire investor Warren Buffett has said his company, Berkshire Hathaway, has sold all its stakes in the 4 largest US airlines, because of the coronavirus crisis. According to the company's financial records, it had an 11% stake in Delta Air Lines, 10% of American Airlines Co, 10% of Southwest Airlines Co and 9% of United Airlines at the end of 2019. Speaking at the company's (virtual) AGM, the business tycoon said "the world has changed" for the aviation industry due to Covid. He said he had made the wrong decision in investing billions of dollars in the aviation industry, since 2016. He thinks it is unclear if as many people will fly in the coming years as in 2019. He said if airline demand comes back 70-80%, that means airlines will have too many planes. The company was one of the largest individual holders in the four airlines. Berkshire Hathaway has lost money on airlines, and is worth less today because of the decision to invest in airlines. Elsewhere, there is speculation that the aviation sector will have to invest more in environmental initiatives, and there will be a decline in investment in the construction of new airport terminals, new airports and new aircraft orders.
Campaign groups write to Sec of State for Transport, asking for a far-reaching review of the aviation industry – with any bail-out funding conditional on proper review
In the current, unprecedented situation for aviation, created by the Covid-19 pandemic, the sector is lobbying hard to be given government bail-out money. Now campaign groups have written to Grant Shapps, asking that a far-reaching review of the aviation industry and the regulatory mechanisms through which it is overseen should be carried out urgently. This is necessary in the light of the series of failures, which have had very significant environmental, health and financial costs. The aviation industry is routinely excused from taking adequate responsibility for its adverse impacts on society and environment, while it enjoys immense legal, fiscal, public funding and other privileges. But its core low-margin high-volume business model - for which it now demands subsidies and bailouts - is unsustainable and no longer credible. The relationship between government and the industry has become too cosy, with policy-makers and officials appearing to believe and act as though their main role is to advance the industry’s interests rather than to regulate it effectively. The letter says systemic failure of the aviation industry, and its regulators is over-due. The intention to carry out such a review should be a condition of, and announced in parallel with, any “bail-out” of UK aviation businesses.
Some possible changes to flying, when and if people want to start flying again
There is much speculation about what the aviation sector will be like in the later part of this year, and in the next few years, due to the Covid pandemic. It is very uncertain, not only whether - or how much - governments will bail out airlines, but also whether air travel demand will stay low, for years. It is likely unprofitable airlines will go out of business, and others will become smaller. They will probably abandon unprofitable routes and reduce capacity - which will mean air travel will be come more expensive. People are rightly very nervous about subjecting themselves to crowds of people at airports, and in planes - even if there is some measure of social distancing, and if wearing masks is compulsory. Enhanced cleaning regimens and modified boarding practices will raise operational costs. Will people over 50 or 60 be discouraged, for their health risk, from flying abroad? Will travel insurance become prohibitively expensive? Will some countries not want incomers, potentially bringing infection? Will the concept of a "bucket list" of travel destinations now be binned? Will travel again become something special, with a "holiday of a lifetime" becoming just that? Fewer short trips, with longer and more meaningful trips instead?
Mixed mode at Heathrow should be opposed; it means expansion through the back door, with more noise hell for thousands
Since 6th April, Heathrow has been operating using only one runway, in mixed mode, as a result of significantly reduced flight numbers during the COVID-19 pandemic. Mixed mode means landings and take-offs can take place on the same runway. At the moment this will be alternated each week, starting on a Monday. It is looking increasingly unlikely Heathrow will get a 3rd runway, due to the judgement of the Appeal Court, and now Covid. But if it does not get its 3rd runway, it is likely they will be looking to be allowed some form of expansion in its “two-runway strategy” that it is expected to launch in due course. This could take the form of increasing the annual cap on flight numbers from its current threshold of 480,000, to a new figure, over 550,000. That is 70,000 more flights per year, or about 190 more per day, using mixed mode. That means a lot more noise nuisance for thousands.The change would need a public inquiry, and would be politically toxic in areas affected negatively by Heathrow. It could bring misery to the 725,000 people already blighted by aircraft noise. Mixed mode means Heathrow expansion through the back door and it should be opposed.
Ryanair getting rid of 3,000 staff, imposing 20% pay cuts – knows air traffic recovery will be slow
Ryanair, which is Europe’s biggest budget airline, has said that it will not be running more than a skeleton service until July – and even then, only around half the expected passengers will travel till September. It will cut up to 3,000 jobs, mainly pilots and cabin crew, in response to the coronavirus pandemic. It will also impose unpaid leave and pay cuts of up to 20%, and close some bases, “until traffic recovers”. The airline is currently flying around 1,700 passengers a day on a much-reduced network of Irish Sea and Continental services. It knows it will take time for passenger volumes to return. It is irritated that Air France and Lufthansa have been given state aid, and also EasyJet. And it has not. Air fares will initially be very low, to try to attract passengers back. Mr O’Leary dismissed the notion of social distancing on board aircraft. “Taking out the middle seat in an aircraft achieves no social distancing. There’s less than two feet between the aisle and the window seats." (And between rows). He misguidedly hopes temperature checks will do the trick. He knows traffic will not return to pre-coronavirus levels for at least 2 years.
BA to cut Gatwick operation and lay off 1,130 pilots – and might not return to Gatwick post-pandemic
British Airways plans, due to Covid, to lose more than 1,100 pilots and make heavy cuts to its Gatwick airport operation as part of 12,000 redundancies - which is up to 30% of its workforce. Letters sent to union representatives for all sections of the airline set out the deep cuts, as well as drastic changes to terms and conditions across the company. BA plans to lay off almost 80% of crew managers at Gatwick and 60% of other cabin crew, more than 1,100 of almost 1,900 staff. The jobs of just over 400 ground staff will be outsourced to the airport and its contractors. The airline knows “there is no certainty as to when services can return” to London City or Gatwick airports. So BA may not continue at Gatwick. And they had “not ruled out suspending the remainder of our Heathrow operation”. Ground staff at Heathrow are also likely to be forced to accept new contracts with significantly lower pay. All 4,346 BA pilots will be asked to sign new contracts changing their terms and conditions, and accept new rostering arrangements. BA will be seeking to lay off 1,130 pilots. Around 22,000 BA employees were furloughed in April and May.
Grant Shapps told EasyJet it would not face environmental levy in a private meeting last year – now gives it a £600 million loan
The UK’s Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps, during a meeting in September 2019, assured easyJet that an environmental tax on flights is “not the way forward.” This has come to light in documents obtained by Greenpeace's Unearthed. Shapps had agreed with easyJet that they did not want taxes aimed at reducing the aviation sector’s CO2 emissions. But now the UK government has given easyJet a £600 million loan, with no climate conditions attached, to help them during the Covid crisis. Meanwhile the EU is reportedly looking to make compliance with the Paris Agreement, and lower carbon emissions, a requirement for cash help. The French government has announced the terms of the €8 billion bailout for Air France, that will include deep (albeit non-binding) decarbonisation targets. Across the world, the aviation sector is lobbying aggressively to get government funding, as demand for air travel has been drastically reduced. It is deeply questionable whether scarce government funds should be spent on such an environmentally damaging sector, taking no account of its impact on climate breakdown.
Coronavirus: Boeing to cut 15,000 jobs – 10% of its workforce as air travel demand collapses
Boeing plans to cut about 10% of its jobs as it continues to reel from the Coronavirus crisis and the fallout from its 737 Max safety crisis. It will lost about 15,000 staff out of a global total of around 150,000, through a combination of buyouts, layoffs and the elimination of unfilled roles. At the end of 2019, the company had about 161,000 staff. The company recorded a loss of $641 million in the first quarter, compared with a profit of $2.15 billion in the same period in 2019. The company's airline customers, which purchase Boeing planes to upgrade their fleets, have put purchases and maintenance on hold as they suffer from a global slowdown in travel. And Boeing continues to face losses due to the grounding of its 737 Max planes, which were blamed for two deadly crashes, in October 2018 and March 2019. Boeing's chief executive Dave Calhoun said "The aviation industry will take years to return to the levels of traffic we saw just a few months ago." Even that may be optimistic.
Airbus and Rolls-Royce have ended a joint venture to produce a hybrid-electric airliner test model
It seems the plans for a (pie-in-the-sky) electric plane before too long are even more remote than they were before ... Airbus and Rolls-Royce have ended a joint venture to produce a hybrid-electric airliner testbed that could have paved the way for electric aircraft of the future. [A testbed aircraft is an aeroplane, helicopter or other kind of aircraft intended for flight research or testing the aircraft concepts or on-board equipment. These could be specially designed or modified from serial production aircraft.] The aim was to replace or or two of four jet engines with an electric engine. There is an unrealistic hope in the industry, and by some politicians, that aircraft carrying hundreds of passengers on their holiday etc trips will, in the not too distant future, be able to fly just on electricity. The reality is that, at best, there might be planes that can carry rather few passengers for rather short distances. Electric planes will NOT be able to substitute for planes like A320s now, travelling over 1,000 miles. The joint venture presumably was not sufficiently successful that the companies felt the need to continue with it. They did manage to produce a keg-sized 2.5MW generator, smaller than produced before.
British Airways lays off up to 12,000 staff, due to likely air travel decline for years
Madrid-based IAG, the owner of British Airways, says 12,000 of BA's total staff of 45,000, now face redundancy. The airline is trying to conserve cash to keep going. Passenger numbers are expected to halve compared to 2019. BA had already furloughed more than half (22,626) of its 45,000 workers. In a statement after the close of the Stock Exchange, IAG said: 'In light of the impact of Covid-19 on current operations and the expectation that the recovery of passenger demand to 2019 levels will take several years, British Airways is formally notifying its trade unions about a proposed restructuring and redundancy programme. The proposals remain subject to consultation but it is likely that they will affect most of British Airways' employees and may result in the redundancy of up to 12,000 of them." ..."There is no Government bailout standing by for BA and we cannot expect the taxpayer to offset salaries indefinitely." News that thousands of people will lose their jobs comes weeks after the airline company's Spanish owners axed a controversial £300million payout to shareholders earlier this month.
Airlines say Covid 2-week quarantine plan ‘will kill’ international travel – deterring travellers (though necessary in efforts to end the pandemic)
Trade body Airlines UK is saying "the airline industry and wider economy will suffer immeasurable damage" if ministers press ahead with plans to quarantine travellers for 14 days after they arrive at British airports. Currently people are arriving in the UK with no requirement, other than advice, to keep themselves in isolation for two weeks - in case they develop Coronavirus. So it is possible those arriving in the UK could be bringing in Covid with them, and setting up new infection spots. But the airlines say passengers having to remain at home, or in a hotel room, for 14 days would wreck international travel, further cut air travel demand, and damage their attempts to get flying profitably again (they do not appear bothered about the spread of Covid). Airlines are saying quarantine measures should be "co-ordinated" and the same between countries. They say, rightly, “Nobody is going to go on holiday if they’re not able to resume normal life for 14 days, and business travel would be severely restricted." They like to claim aviation is vital to the UK economy ... in reality most UK air travel is for leisure trips.
US flight attendants warn: the airlines need to stop flying now
The airlines were a main contributor to the rapid spread of Covid-19 around the world. Rapid air travel is a major risk in the quick dissemination of any virus disease, enabling one to become a pandemic. But as well as moving the passengers around the globe, aiding the spread of infection, the airline staff are themselves at huge risk of catching the virus from the passengers they are transporting. American flight attendants are very concerned about their own health risks, as they are very exposed to potentially catching virus disease. They often have to travel to and from work on public transport; they have to pass through many parts of an airport, coming into contact with many people; they have to come into close contact with passengers during a flight, and they then risk infecting their families when they return home. Even quarantining passengers in their destination country will not reduce the risk to airline staff. If every airline passenger, and all airline staff, wear masks, the risk would be slightly reduced. However, the effectiveness of a mask, worn for many hours and becoming damp, is unknown.
Norwegian Air says most of fleet will stay grounded until 2021, and shareholders will be seriously hit
Norwegian Air says virtually all of its fleet of aircraft will remain grounded until 2021 as it seeks to persuade shareholders (meeting on 4th May) to accept a government-backed rescue plan that will wipe out most of their investments. Bondholders, aircraft lessors and shareholders will have to take a huge cut in profits in order for the airline to get a 3bn kroner (£230m) state bailout. Even that may not be enough, it warned, in its “base scenario”, where operations only restart in earnest next summer. Currently just seven of a fleet of 147 planes are not grounded as they are being used for state-subsidised domestic flights in Norway, mainly for essential cargo. Its future plans may mean only keeping key profitable routes, ending long-haul routes to secondary airports, with a fleet up to 30% smaller than previously planned. Bondholders will later this week decide whether to accept the strategy and allow the debt to be converted into equity, a necessary move if Norwegian is to gain access to state funds. Norwegian’s aircraft lessors will also be asked to take equity in the company, rather than pursue debts. The airline is looking to reduce its obligations on leasing planes by £403m.
Stop Stansted Expansion ask MAG not to challenge Uttlesford DC’s decision to oppose expansion, saving public money to help with Covid recovery
Uttlesford District Council (UDC) refused the Stansted Airport planning application on 24 January this year. But the airport’s owners, Manchester Airports Group (MAG), said an appeal was being considered. Legally, 6 months is allowed for a planning appeal and 3 months of that have now passed. An appeal would trigger a Public Inquiry which would mean that the final outcome might not be known for possibly another 18 months. Meanwhile UDC has felt it had to set aside £1.7 million to cover the potential costs of a Public Inquiry, and the risk of UDC being forced to pay MAG’s costs if MAG wins. Stop Stansted Expansion (SSE) has asked MAG to show magnanimity in the current circumstances of the Covid pandemic, by announcing that it will respect the decision made by UDC in January, and not appeal. SSE say "it’s time to end the uncertainty ... Now more than ever, MAG should respect the UDC decision.” SSE want the airport to withdraw its application for expansion to from 35mppa to 43 mppa. The £1.7million would be far better spent, by UDC, "to assist local businesses and local residents, including airport employees who have been laid off, during the virus crisis.”
Coronavirus: Airlines lobby Sunak over prolonged ‘cash crisis’ wanting help well past June
Britain's airline industry is urging ministers to further extend government emergency wage subsidies beyond the end of June, warning that it will face a continuing "cash crisis" as demand for air travel takes months to recover from the COVID-19 crisis. Airlines UK has written to the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, to ask the Treasury to provide certainty for airlines about the ongoing operation of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme. Airlines UK says if the scheme is "withdrawn prematurely, carriers experiencing only a tentative revenue recovery will face a renewed cash crisis". They also want a 'tapering' of the scheme or a review on a sectoral basis - to avoid aviation facing a cliff-edge post-June, whilst services start slowly being scaled up. Airlines have already had assistance with air traffic control charges for the lockdown period. Mr Sunak has said that the government will only consider bailing out individual carriers "as a last resort". Airlines want the furlough scheme to last as long as possible, as if there is a second wave of infection, it will delay the return of air travel demand.
Lufthansa says it will be a smaller airline post-Covid with perhaps 10,000 fewer jobs
Lufthansa has said that it will be left with 10,000 excess staff, when the Covid crisis ends, as it may become a permanently smaller airline. It is unlikely to experience pre-crisis levels of demand until 2023. Demand may not recover unless and until there is a vaccine that is available worldwide. And it says it will have to spend more the €1bn a year to repay loans after the crisis. It can no longer borrow the money it needs commercially. Almost 90,000 of its 135,000 employees are furloughed, and many staff would be lost, though every effort will be made to preserve jobs. Also the load factor may be 10% lower in future. It may also get rid of about 100 planes, keeping larger models. The CEO, Carsten Spohr, said “We were the first industry to be affected by this global crisis and aviation will be one of the last to leave it.” [And they helped the rapid spread of the virus round the world]. IATA is predicting a 48% fall in air passengers in 2020, compared to 2019, taking global numbers back to those of around 2013. Lufthansa may axe Germanwings and shrink its Eurowings division.
Air France must cut CO2 emissions, and domestic flights as condition of state aid: says France’s Finance Minister
France's Finance Minister, Bruno Le Maire, has told Air France that it will have to cut its carbon emissions and domestic flights, as conditions for government financial support. The French government has offered the airline a €7 billion package of state-guaranteed bank loans, and loans directly from the state. This is on condition that the airline map out a path to profitability and set the goal of "becoming the most environmentally friendly carrier in the world." [Whatever that means]. Air France will have to halve its CO2 emissions per passenger, and per kilometre - compared to their 2005 level - by 2030. The CO2 emissions from domestic flights in France will have to be halved, and that means cutting the numbers drastically. Another condition is that 2% of the fuel used by its planes would have to be derived from alternative, sustainable sources by 2025. [Problem is there are almost no properly environmentally "sustainable" fuels, and pushing for them is likely to increase deforestation and loss of land for food growing, and for wildlife]. Air France also have to buy new planes, with lower CO2 emissions, from Airbus.
Heathrow’s Holland-Kaye wants internationally agreed infection screening measures at airports
Matt Hancock, wanting an internationally agreed standard of measures to check passengers for Covid infection. Holland-Kaye has asked Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, for mass screening at airports to combat Covid. He wants an internationally agreed standard of measures, including antibody tests and a requirement that all passengers carry health passports proving they are medically fit - so he can get the airport working and making money again soon. At present, about 10,000 people are arriving per day through Heathrow. Some are from countries with a lot of Covid and might be carrying the virus. The UK has a far more lax attitude to people arriving by air than many other countries. All there is for passengers arriving at UK airports is they are handed information leaflets and told to self-isolate for 14 days after landing – although officials admit they have no way of enforcing this. Passengers may leave the airport on public transport. The failure to insist on proper quarantine threatens the health of the nation and makes a mockery of the lockdown conditions imposed on the rest of Britain. The UK is an outlier in its open borders, no quarantine policy.
Gatwick: Likely to take 4 years for passenger levels to recover to 2019 levels (if ever …)
Gatwick has said it will not ask the Treasury for emergency loans despite fearing that passenger numbers will not return to pre-Covid levels for up to 4 years. Gatwick has already secured a £300m loan from existing banks. It has also cancelled dividends, cut a lot of costs and furloughed around 2,000 staff. Boss Stewart Wingate said: “We think it is probably going to take somewhere between 3 and 4 years to get back to the levels that we were at in 2019." Gatwick hopes it can ride out months of losses, but want to have flights re-starting by the end of May. Unlike rivals, Gatwick said "you should do absolutely everything you possibly can that is within your control to protect the business" before asking for state aid. Gatwick is open from 2-10pm each day, for a handful of flights. Unlike rival Heathrow, which gave out over £100 million in dividends to shareholders in February, Gatwick’s owners will not be taking a dividend despite the airport announcing an 8% rise in earnings of £432m in the 9 months to December 2019. There may not be dividends till 2022. It is possible that British Airways might leave Gatwick in due course.
Physical distancing on planes will end era of cheap air travel, aviation industry’s IATA warns
Until there is minimal risk of transmission of Covid-19, and there is no longer a need for social distancing, airlines are not going to be able to continue to operate as they have in the past. Passengers will not be able to sit close together. If at least one seat in three has to be left empty (even that may not achieve a necessary 6ft distance) then the price of tickets will have to rise. Substantially. IATA says the days of cheap air travel will be over if airlines are forced, by governments, to introduce physical distancing measures on planes. IATA says if they cannot sell one third of their seats, then prices will have to rise by at least 50%. [What is the logic?] IATA said would particularly hit low cost airlines, and would mean the end of the days of cheap air travel. Recovery of air travel demand will be slow, not only due to infection fear but also economic recessions - many people will be poorer. Also, people have become more used to internet communication. Other changes that airlines are introducing are distancing at airports, and less hand luggage allowed in cabins. Also passengers given pre-packed food, or allowed to bring their own, and no inflight magazines etc. All cutting profits ...?
TAN launches legal bid to stop UK government roads building plans – on climate grounds
The UK government’s £28.8 billion plan to expand Britain’s road network is set to be challenged in the courts. Lawyers Leigh Day, acting for Transport Action Network (TAN) have asked the DfT and Highways England to scrap their 5-year road building plan. The pre-action protocol letter was sent to the DfT on 9th April. This is partly on the grounds that it is not compatible with the UK's commitments under the Paris Agreement, and also breaches air quality legislation. TAN have retained the services of David Wolfe QC of Matrix chambers and Pete Lockley of 11 KBW, who won in the Heathrow case back in February, on the same climate grounds, of ignoring the Paris Agreement. The Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, launched the Road Investment Strategy 2 (RIS2) in March, and it was described as England’s “largest ever” roads programme, and Tory manifesto pledge to spend on strategic roads. Spending money on more, bigger roads just acts to lock in future carbon emissions, by increasing road vehicle trips. TAN launched a £38,000 crowdfunder on April 21 to pay for the legal challenge.
Smaller airports, whose finances were already dodgy before Covid-19, may not survive post-pandemic
Due to Covid-19, about 90% of flights have ceased. Some airports are "at risk" of closure because of the loss of business. Airports said cargo flights were running and shareholders were being supportive as they worked to cut costs. Flight tracking website Flightradar24 recorded just 711 departures from the UK's 10 biggest airports last week - compared to 7,865 in the week up to the UK's lockdown. Even before Covid, many regional airports were precarious, and that was made worse by the collapse of Flybe for domestic and short haul flights. They would normally make money from the Easter holidays and the summer. Even if there is a gradual lifting of lockdown, and more people start to fly, this is unlikely to create the usual summer rush. If the end of lockdown happens towards winter, that is a time of less air travel. Some grounded planes may never fly again. Fear of infection may never be forgotten. People's attitudes to travel may have been permanently altered. So some airports may to out of business. What would take over their land and buildings? Furloughed staff are being paid 80% of their wages by the government, but the sector wants more public money. Will it only be the larger airports that can survive longer-term?
Austrian government would like any Austrian Airlines state bailout to be linked to climate targets and lower CO2 emissions in future
Austria's environment minister has said that Coronavirus state aid for Austrian Airlines should support efforts to cut aviation’s carbon footprint, as the government negotiates with the firm’s German parent company, Lufthansa. Any aid should be used to cut carbon emissions, as it is public money, and needs to be used wisely. Austrian Airlines has grounded all planes. “When it is about an industry that particularly needs to contribute to climate protection, then it makes a lot of sense to use this situation to support this transformation,” the minister said. Europe’s airlines are struggling to keep their heads above water, as virus lockdown measures slash demand for air travel. According to the IATA, latest estimates are that global losses for the airline sector this year will nearly reach €300 billion. Airlines are trying to get state aid, to bail them out, hoping they can get back to being profitable as soon as possible. It is unclear what specific climate conditions could be written into a bailout deal but options reportedly include a pledge to reduce short-haul flights, increased cooperation with rail companies, more low carbon fuels [if they exist] and bigger tax contributions.
NATS eligible for funding of up to £92 million to maintain services
The DfT has announced that there is to be a £1.1 billion support package for air navigation service providers across Europe affected by COVID-19 events. This is because the pandemic has caused a massive fall in air traffic and hence in their incomes. It was announced earlier that airlines would be able to temporarily defer payments for route charges for February to May 2020, for up to 14 months, due to the virus. That would amount to £1.1 billion. The UK and other European states have supported the intergovernmental organisation, Eurocontrol, which manages charging for air navigation services across Europe, in securing the loan of £1.1 billion (where from?). The UK’s "en-route" air navigation service provider, NATS would be eligible to receive up to £92 million in support, enabling it to continue providing services. The only flights at present are for cargo and repatriation. The money is partly to ensure NATS and Eurocontrol can return to full operations at the appropriate time, "to help the recovery of the aviation sector." The UK government holds a 10% share in the vote for any such action passed by Eurocontrol, and voted in favour of pursuing the loan.
EasyJet says it might leave the middle seat of 3 empty, to give the impression of correct “social distancing”
Airlines are keen to persuade the public that they can provide the recommended level of "social distancing" to avoid spread of Covid-19, while being stuck in a metal tube for several hours, with many other people. EasyJet has now said it plans to keep the middle seat, of sets of three seats, on its planes empty once the Covid-19 lockdown has been lifted. However, plane seats are about 17-18 inches wide. The distance between rows of seats on planes is about 31-33 inches, called the "seat pitch". Six feet is the distance recommended by governments for "social distancing". So just removing one seat leaves people closer than 6 feet apart, and also if there are people in the row infront or behind. Even removing one seat (inadequate for necessary distancing) would mean an increase in air fares, or less profit for EasyJet. And they say it would only be a temporary measure, while Covid lockdown is lifted. The airline wants people to think they are "taking this very seriously...." Not about profit or turnover at all then? As airlines were unwilling to refund passengers tickets, cancelled due to Covid, and instead gave them vouchers for future travel, they have a problem.
Will demand for air travel, and our attitude to it, ever be the same post-pandemic?
Nobody knows what the future of the airline industry will look like, post-pandemic. Some of the factors are: will many airlines survive, even if given generous help from governments? how can future pandemics be prevented from being spread rapidly by air travel? how can airlines know if people are harbouring virus even if they do not show symptoms? can airlines operate if they have to maintain "social distancing" of 6ft between people at all times, without air fares having to rise hugely? how can they maintain social distancing at airports, and once passengers leave an airport? how much fear of contracting an illness will remain? will people ever fly again without a lingering nervousness about getting ill? if the price of air travel has to rise, will the poor be able to fly? will destinations want an influx of potentially infected people from other countries? if families can now keep in touch adequately by video conferencing like Zoom, will demand for family/ friends contact flights be cut? will business flights be cut by use of Zoom etc? as the business flights make the most money for airlines, how will that affect airlines' bottom lines? will our enthusiasm for globalisation wane? And many more issues ....
Coronavirus: Areas reliant on aviation industry ‘to suffer worst’ – especially Crawley, too dependent on Gatwick
The Think Tank, the Centre of Cities, believes jobs in cities and towns which depend on the aviation industry will be most under threat by the coronavirus crisis. They estimate about 20% of jobs in these areas are vulnerable to the economic impacts of Covid-19. The economy of Crawley is likely to be hardest hit, as it is too dependent on Gatwick. More than 53,000 jobs are classed as vulnerable and very vulnerable in Crawley, of about 94,000 in the area. About 18% of jobs in Crawley are in aviation, compared with 1% on average across other big towns and cities. There are a lot of taxi drivers, whose work depends on the airport. People have warned for years about the dangers of areas "having all their eggs in one basket" on jobs, with too high a dependence on one industry. As much of the UK airline sector has almost closed down, with at least a 75% cut in flights at Heathrow, and over 90% cut at Gatwick, almost no flights using Luton, and so on. Luton is another town that is overly dependent on the airport, and now suffering. Also Derby and Aberdeen. The areas worse affected by job losses due to Covid-19 will be asking for government help, once the lockdowns are lifted.
Coronavirus: plane-free skies spur research into non-CO2 warming impact of aviation eg. contrails
As the Covid-19 pandemic response decimates air traffic, it provides a unique opportunity for scientists to study how planes’ contrails trap heat in the atmosphere. It is the chance to study how much aviation increases global warming. The dramatic fall in air traffic is the largest since the 9/11 attacks in 2001. Scientists with Nasa and European research groups hope to use clear skies to narrow down massive uncertainties about the warming effect of condensation trails. The science of how much added warming is caused by the contrails (and other non-CO2 impacts of aviation) is complex and more research is needed. But it is likely that the overall impact of aviation on climate is about double that of the CO2 alone. It is perhaps 4-5% of the global total of human climate impact. Researchers will use satellites and measurements by planes to study how clouds form naturally when thousands of flights are grounded in the absence of aircraft. Would clouds have formed anyway, in the absence of planes? However, there are problems with Covid-19 social distancing, in assembling teams of technicians to install sensors on planes and find pilots to fly them.
Covid-19: No more “normal” for aviation in future, after the world experiences the pandemic
The airlines have suffered, as have many other sectors of the economy, a dramatic decline due to Covid-19. They are hoping to be given generous loans and finance through governments, to help them deal with the crisis - though they are no more deserving than others. (It was the airlines that spread, inadvertently, the disease so fast, across the world). The airline sector used to be seen as special, glamorous and something praiseworthy. It seems that nowadays flying has become so commonplace, and such an unpleasant experience, that it no longer sits on that pedestal of public warmth and admiration. There is little public support for bailing out an industry that does not much environmental harm, especially when it has given large pay-outs to its financial backers over the years. The industry is facing a very uncertain future. The crisis is not just a temporary one, that might resolve in a few months. Covid-19 has seen an astounding rise in video-conferencing, (Zoom etc) that is likely to change for ever our perception of the need for air travel. And it may have caused long term anxieties about the global spread of disease. Many airlines are likely to collapse. Flying may look very different, and be more expensive, in a few years time.
Haji-Ioannou says EasyJet £600m government loan is ‘biggest scandal in British corporate history’
EasyJet has secured a £600m loan from the Bank of England’s Covid Corporate Finance Facility, as the airline’s founder and biggest shareholder, Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou, claimed it would run out of cash by the year end regardless. The loan scheme allows UK businesses to apply for loans at pre-crisis commercial rates. EasyJet said it would also borrow another £407m from commercial creditors to ensure its liquidity. Its planes are now all grounded. Haji-Ioannou said even if the airline resumes flying fairly soon, hopes it would be solvent by August were probably “wildly optimistic” because it is wasting money on buying new planes. He said it is a scandal for EasyJet to be getting government funds, as if it cancelled the plane order, the loan would not be needed. The £600m will be to pay Airbus. He said when international travel eventually restarts, the airline would “feel more like a startup trying to find a few profitable routes for a few aircraft”. EasyJet is meant to be buying order for 107 planes from Airbus, costing some £4.5bn, which it now cannot afford. EasyJet has now reached agreements with unions to furlough about 4,000 UK-based pilots and crew during April and May, out of a total of about 9,000. Haji-Ioannou's family received a near £60m share of £171m paid in dividends last month.
Covid-19: IATA emails reveal airline industry plan for tax breaks, subsidies & voucher refunds
Lobbyists around the world are coordinating a massive effort on behalf of airlines to push governments to remove environmental taxes and set up bailout funds - due to Covid-19. An email from IATA to its members shows how the airline industry is lobbying for public money to be poured into funds to restart or maintain air travel - and for any planned tax increases to be delayed for up to a year. The email describes “an aggressive global campaign” to ensure that airlines can offer passengers vouchers rather than cash refunds if flights are cancelled. This saves airlines money now, and also means CO2 emissions will increase as passengers re-book at a later date, instead of not travelling. Campaigners are concerned that the aid to airlines may last longer than the Covid crisis, even when things are back to (near) normal, and would allow the airline industry to receive public support without any undertakings to governments to reduce future carbon emissions. Governments can’t afford to be bailing out polluting sectors without strict green conditions. IATA also wants the baseline of carbon emissions for CORSIA to be based only on 2019 emissions, not 2019 and 2020 as intended, due to the pandemic this year.
Natural England objects to proposed jet fuel from waste plant, backed by BA, Shell and Velocys
BA has been trying to get some jet fuel made from domestic waste that would otherwise go to landfill, so it can claim it is using "low carbon" fuels. There were plans for a plant in east London, by Solena, back in 2014 but that never got off the ground; Solena went bust in October 2015. Now BA and Shell and Velocys are hoping for a plant on an 80-acre site on Humberside, to convert waste that would go to landfill, into jet fuel. However, Natural England are worried it could harm local wildlife and have filed an objection. Velocys says the plant would turn household waste into 60 million litres of "low-carbon" jet fuel every year. The project is backed by £4.5m of investment from Shell and British Airways, alongside a £434,000 grant from the Department of Transport. In a letter dated 20 February 2020 Natural England said it objects to the development because trucks ferrying waste to the site could increase nitrogen oxide levels - which can cause serious health impacts for humans and wildlife. It is also concerned construction and waste from the site could disturb nearby habitats for rare birds. It is now for North East Lincolnshire Council to decide whether to approve the scheme.
GMB call on Heathrow to reverse “kick in the teeth” reneging on paying London Living wage from April 2020
Historically the GMB union, which has the most members at Heathrow, have lobbied strongly all along the way for Heathrow expansion. They hope for more jobs. Even better paid ones. But Heathrow has often not done much to help its workers. With a struggle, in 2018, the GMB managed to get Heathrow to agree that contracted workers would be guaranteed London Living Wage of £10.55 per hour by April 2020. Now the GMB says workers are devastated to learn that "Heathrow Ltd have informed contract companies within its direct supply chain that is reneging on its agreement to fund implementation of the London Living Wage to its employees that was promised to workers from April 2020 onwards." GMB says this is unfair. Heathrow is currently only working (from 6th April) with one runway due to the dramatic decline in air travel due to Covid-19. The GMB says Heathrow much honour its agreement, to ensure workers (security, cleaning) etc still working at the airport - employed by outsourced contractors - get the Living Wage from April 2020. Workers were expecting this rise in their wage packets this April.
Karl Turner asks: Where next for the UK’s airport policy?
On 27th February 2020 the Court of Appeal declared the Government’s Airports National Policy Statement (ANPS) to be illegal as the Government had not taken into consideration their commitments on climate under the Paris Agreement. So unless Heathrow succeeds in appealing to the Supreme Court, or Shapps amends the ANPS, Heathrow expansion is unlikely to happen. Expansion at Heathrow would have had a negative impact on the regions of the UK. The forthcoming Aviation White Paper [Aviation Strategy] provides the opportunity for Government to have a rethink about its entire aviation policy, particularly with regard to any future airport expansion. At the very most, UK aviation could expand by 25% on its 2018 level. But the current government projections are for 73% expansion by 2050, with various entirely speculative technologies that do not exist, or would be prohibitively expensive, removing the carbon. Alternative fuels are not going to happen on any scale. The government must avoid financial measures that boost aviation demand or support failing airline businesses, which cannot be justified in light of the climate crisis. .
Big airline polluters likely to increase their CO2 emissions post-Covid, unless this is better regulated
The carbon emissions of EU airlines grew in 2019. There will be a steep fall in their emissions for an unknown amount of time, due to the Covid-19 pandemic. But air passenger numbers repeatedly broke records in the aftermath of global shocks such as the 2008 financial crisis, the September 11 attacks, the Gulf War […]
What the Covid-19 pandemic can teach us about changes to life in future, and tackling climate change
There are lots of comments in the media about how society recovers from the Covid-19 pandemic, and the unique opportunity the crisis has provided for a re-think of many aspects of our economies. Governments and business etc will want to go for maximum economic growth, as soon as the crisis has been dealt with. The climate and ecological crises the earth faces will not have gone away, and will continue to worsen unless decisive and effective action is taken. Time may have been wasted on cutting carbon emissions, due to the virus crisis. There is a risk of environmental constraints being abandoned, in the rush for a return of economic growth. But there is also talk of the de-growth economy - slowing of growth in sectors that damage the environment, such as fossil fuel industries, and strengthening others, until the economy operates within Earth’s limits. Such a transformation would be profound, and so far no nation has shown the will to implement it. Coronavirus has caused unprecedented and rapid societal changes, and social constraints that would have been considered unimaginable just 2 months ago. There are practical lessons and opportunities we could take away from the coronavirus emergency as we seek to tackle climate change, though that is neither short-term, nor rapidly overcome.
AEF asks: how should policymakers react to Covid-19 problems for aviation, and plan for the sector’s future?
The global changes to the aviation sector, caused by Covid-19, have been rapid and radical. It would have been impossible back in January to anticipate how many flights would be grounded, how air travel demand would sink, and how many airlines would be struggling to stay solvent. In a thoughtful piece by the AEF (Aviation Environment Federation), they consider how aviation policy needs to be re-thought, when the virus crisis is over. It is an opportunity to re-think society's relationship to air travel, in a world that has been woken up to the realities of a global pandemic, and its consequences. Even when the sector hopes, post-virus, to get back to "business as usual" flying, the long-term danger of climate breakdown remains - and the threat worsens. The AEF says it is time to cease aviation exceptionalism, and the special treatment is gets on environmental policies and regulations. This needs to change. And there should not be measures to cut aviation tax, as demanded by the industry, that increase air travel demand. That is not justifiable. Covid-19 has demonstrated the desire, by millions, to look after and care about the welfare of others. Perhaps this virus wake up call could bring the dawning of a more responsible age.
DfT consultation on “Decarbonising Transport” – nothing of substance to cut aviation CO2
The DfT has quietly published (no press release or announcement - we are in the Covid-19 crisis) a consultation about Decarbonising Transport. The end date is around June, but not specified. Shapps says: "2020 will be the year we set out the policies and plans needed to tackle transport emissions. This document marks the start of this process. It gives a clear view of where we are today and the size of emissions reduction we need." And, less encouragingly: "We will lead the development of sustainable biofuels, hybrid and electric aircraft to lessen and remove the impact of aviation on the environment and by 2050..." (he actually believes electric planes will make much difference in a few decades??). It also says "Aviation, at present, is a relatively small contributor to domestic UK GHG emissions. Its proportional contribution is expected to increase significantly as other sectors decarbonise more quickly." And while saying we are working with ICAO on its CORSIA carbon scheme (unlikely to be effective) the document states: "...we would be minded to include international aviation and shipping emissions in our carbon budgets if there is insufficient progress at an international level." But overall the intention is to let demand for air travel continue to rise.
Gatwick Airport will consolidate operations into the South Terminal from 1 April and limit runway opening hours
Gatwick will close its North Terminal and consolidate operations into the South Terminal from 1 April, for a month, due to the lack of demand for air travel because of COVID-19. The runway to be in use between 1400 and 2200 for scheduled flights, but will be available for emergency landings and diversions only, outside these hours. The situation will be reviewed after a month, by 1st May. A decision on reopening the North Terminal will be taken when airline traffic eventually increases and Government public health advice – including on social distancing – is relaxed. Gatwick is hoping to make out that it is being "responsible" in closing, to protect the health of its staff and passengers, while it has been quite happy to have as many flights as it can, to and from other countries suffering high levels of Covid-19 infection, up until now. It is only closing because of the economics, and to "protect its business." In addition London City Airport has announced that it was suspending all commercial and private flights until the end of April. It is also possible that Birmingham Airport could serve as a mortuary during the Coronavirus crisis.
Fresh indication that the government is not intending to support Heathrow expansion
The No 3rd Runway Coalition believe the Government has given its clearest hint yet that it will not support Heathrow expansion. In reply to a question put by Slough MP Tan Dhesi, the aviation minister, Kelly Tolhurst said that “The Court of Appeal has ruled that the designation of the Airports National Policy Statement has no legal effect unless and until this Government carries out a review”. The fresh use of the word “unless” implies consideration has been given to drop the project altogether. The DfT also state that they are focussed on responding to Covid-19 at the moment, which presents further evidence that Heathrow expansion has slipped down the agenda. The Government also say that they “are carefully considering the Court of Appeal’s judgment and will set out our next steps in due course”. However, it is unclear how long is meant by “due course”. Heathrow is struggling, with few passengers, probably having to close one or more terminals, due to restrictions on air travel for an unknown period of time, due to Covid-19. A recent review of senior staff at Heathrow shows no longer a role for overseeing expansion. Heathrow now also appear not to be pushing for the "early release" of 25,000 extra flights, as this would depend on the NPS, which has now been deemed to be invalid, by the courts.
Chancellor tells airlines that the government will not bail them out, due to Covid-19 crisis
Rishi Sunak, the chancellor, has written to the airlines and airports, warning that there would be no sector-wide rescue to prevent companies going out of business because of coronavirus. He insisted that further taxpayer support for the sector would only be possible once they had “exhausted other options” including raising money from shareholders, investors and banks. Companies have been told to access funding already announced last week, including monthly payments of up to £2,500 for every employee temporarily laid off because of the crisis. In his letter he said that airlines and airports could only seek “bespoke” support from the Treasury as a “last resort”, with no guarantee of further help. The comments follow criticism levelled at Easyjet after it paid shareholders £174 million in dividends last week, despite appealing for taxpayer support. Sir Richard Branson, has also been attacked after the airline told staff to take 8 weeks of unpaid leave. He has since promised to invest £215 million to support his Virgin Group business. Many airlines may go bankrupt due to the virus crisis. Some of the smaller airports may close, and larger airports partly close temporarily.
Glut of jet fuel, as aviation demand is hugely reduced – land storage facilities nearly full – now storage in tankers at sea
The world is close to running out of space to store jet fuel that planes do not need, due to the collapse in air travel because of Covid-19 virus. Only about 20% of land-based storage for the product remains -- about 50 million barrels. There is now a shortage of places to keep unwanted jet fuel supplies. Unless oil refineries stop producing jet fuel, this will get worse. The aviation industry normally uses about 7 million barrels of jet fuel per day. Demand is down by about a third now, and could fall by 50% in the next few months. Airlines might be able to store fuel cheaply (perhaps $75 per tonne for two months) and save themselves money in future. It is unclear how much oil refineries have cut production. While land based sites may fill up, tanker ships can be chartered to store jet fuel at sea. However, there is a limit how long it can be stored, due to concerns about oxidation, stability and moisture content, and it degrades much faster than crude oil. Global oil consumption is being reduced by the coronavirus; as well as less air travel, many people are driving less. Refineries may switch to producing more diesel.
UK government draws up plans to buy airline shares, that would eventually be sold back to private investors, to keep them afloat during Covid-19
The FT has reported that the UK government is preparing plans to buy equity stakes in airlines and other companies hardest hit by the coronavirus crisis, after being warned that the economic packages it has announced so far will not be enough to save them. This is still in discussion. The plans would see the UK taxpayer inject billions of pounds into companies including British Airways in exchange for shares that would eventually be sold back to private investors. The airlines, unlike companies selling essential items, currently have almost zero customers - taking holidays and leisure breaks is no longer desirable, or indeed, permitted. So the airlines and airport will have almost no income. The government plan for the airlines is "an infusion of capital in exchange for equity.” That is safer for the government than a loan, that may never be repaid, even when airlines get back to operating nearly normally. Many airlines already have huge debts. They cannot borrow more commercially. Some airlines wanted state loans and tax relief, but that might not be enough during a sustained shutdown in the global aviation industry. The US might also take equity stakes in their domestic airlines.
Fatih Birol, of IEA, says due to Covid-19 Governments have ‘historic opportunity’ to accelerate clean energy transition
International Energy Agency (IEA) head Fatih Birol is calling on heads of state and international financial institutions to make Coronavirus recovery plans sustainable. He says political and financial leaders have “a historic opportunity” to usher in a new era for global climate action with economic stimulus packages. These stimulus packages are a critical opportunity for governments to “shape policies” in line with climate action. This is a great opportunity to focus, instead of on fossil fuels, on clean energy technologies and accelerating the transition away from fossil fuels. Currently huge sums are spent on keeping the price of fossil fuels low. Instead, now is a unique historic opportunity. This includes the aviation sector, which represents 1% of the global economy but 8% of global oil consumption. When plans to reinvigorate economies get going, they must address climate breakdown; including financial stimuli using low interest rates for low carbon electricity is key - and funding carbon capture and storage technologies. Governments need to increase the production of climate-proof jobs, avoiding jobs in "stranded asset" fossil fuel industries.
Role of ICAO in not encouraging rapid decrease in international spread of Covid-19 by air travel
In the Covid-19 international virus crisis, the airline industry has been they key means by which the virus has spread rapidly, to almost every country. But the industry has been primarily concerned with its own economic interests. There is much more the aviation industry could have done, earlier on, to limit the spread of the disease. The Canadian news website, Ricochet, says only by the 9th March did ICAO's council finally adopted a declaration affirming “the urgent need to reduce the public health risk of the spread of COVID-19 by air transport,” but the damage was already done. Instead of limiting flights as much as possible from the start of the COVID-19 epidemic, ICAO lobbied to delay the adoption of health measures that could harm air traffic. They stressed the role of governments in directing the health checks etc on travellers, avoiding discouraging air travel by those who were likely to have been in contact with infected people. Doing that would have reduced passengers, and thus income and profits for the sector. On Feb 4th ICAO warned governments about imposing “additional health measures that may significantly impede international [air] traffic.” By then the first cases of infection had already been declared two to three weeks earlier in travellers who came from China, most of them by plane.
Heathrow expansion frozen, with Coronavirus crisis adding further costs, uncertainties and delay
Heathrow contractors have been told to down tools, with work put 'on hold' until there is further clarity on any plan for a 3rd runway. It is unlikely to make any progress during the Covid-19 recession, when the number of people flying has been cut to just tiny numbers, and the situation likely to last for at least several months. This comes after the Court of Appeal ruling (27th February) that the Airports NPS is illegal; Heathrow is trying to appeal against this, to the Supreme Court, with a decision on whether to allow the appeal by mid April. Now the delays to the runway plans, if it ever happens, have increased by perhaps another year - due to the Coronavirus. The date when it might be ready has slipped from 2026, to 2029 (due to the CAA decision) to about 2030 (due to the Appeal Court) to about 2031 (due to Coronavirus).... so it is looking less and less likely. The airport will lose huge amounts of money, due to the virus, unless government bails it out - and that is widely NOT seen as a sensible use of government funds, when millions of people also need financial help, due to Covid-19.
Airlines write to ask for government help as passengers no longer travel by air, due to Covid-19
As with so many other sectors and businesses in the UK and elsewhere, the Covid-19 pandemic is causing great difficulties to airports and airlines. Having speeded the spread of the disease round the world, airlines are now seeing a massive reduction in the numbers of people who want to fly. Governments are telling people not to travel. Planes are empty. Airports are empty. Many airlines do not have more than 2 or 3 months of reserves and are asking for government money to bail them out. Airports want help too, as do most other sectors. Whether giving money to airports (eg. Heathrow and Gatwick, owned by rich foreign companies) is a sensible use of scarce public funds, is another matter. Now Heathrow, Gatwick and Manchester airports have warned that they may have to close down operations unless there is government intervention to help them weather the virus crisis (that might last for many months more). The Airport Operators Association (AOA) said other airports are in the same position. IATA has said only about 30 of more than 700 airlines operating commercial flights around the world were likely to survive the next few months without help.