The proposals from British Airways to make as many as 12,000 people redundant and possibly end its entire operation at Gatwick is a worrying demonstration of how Covid-19 is changing the world. It is a deeply concerning time for people in and around Heathrow airport.
With so many jobs and livelihoods dependent on a thriving UK aviation industry, these fears will be shared in homes and communities across the country. Regional airports throughout the land are suffering. Some, like Newquay and Teeside, have shut to all but the emergency services, whilst others are reducing hours of operation and severely curtailing flights. Glasgow Airport has even repurposed its long-stay car park to host a drive-through mobile testing centre for the virus.
It’s not just the airlines and the airports that are suffering, as thousands of local businesses who rely upon them for work are hurting too – caterers, taxi drivers, cargo handlers, transport and construction workers, energy suppliers, security staff, cleaners and so on. It has been estimated that in the area to the west of Heathrow aviation and related activity supports around 120,000 jobs and contributes £6.2billion to the UK economy.
As Executive Director of Back Heathrow, the community group with over 100,000 supporters, I speak to local businesses, employees, and unions, and know the anguish this is causing. It’s really tough, but I know that we are all in this together and if the UK is to get its economy back on track, it’s going to need fully functioning airports and local businesses trading successfully again.
I hope that for some it won’t be too late. The Government must take action now to safeguard UK airlines and airports, so we can meet the Prime Minister’s challenge and ‘fire up the engines’ of our economy in post-lockdown Britain.
Political inaction on aviation will lead to higher levels of joblessness in areas like west London and the Thames Valley
Political inaction on aviation during the Covid-19 crisis will lead to higher levels of joblessness in areas like west London and the Thames Valley, where Heathrow airport supports upwards of 150,000 jobs, says Back Heathrow today.
Furthermore, other towns, cities and regions with airports could see them left with mass unemployment too, for years to come.
Parmjit Dhanda, Executive Director of Back Heathrow warns that the government is running out of time to formulate a plan for aviation to save communities in west London from a generation of long-term unemployment.
Mr Dhanda said: “West London has upwards of 150,000 jobs that depend on Heathrow airport. They contribute over £6bn to the economy, but due to government’s inaction their jobs are in greater peril. We have already seen thousands of jobs slashed by airlines and related industries around the country. West London is particularly vulnerable because it is home to Heathrow, one of the country’s biggest generators of jobs.
“However, the government has no plan to restore confidence in aviation through nationally adopted health tests for Coronavirus at airports. Heathrow has taken its own initiative to introduce thermal imaging tests, in the absence of government action. The government has no plan to save jobs when airlines and airports are reeling, causing immense strain on the wider supply chain. It needs to act or west London, the Thames Valley and other areas dependent on airport jobs will become employment waste grounds.”
Back Heathrow’s call for action comes in a week when British Airways has said it will axe 12,000 jobs and Virgin Airlines a further 3,000. Regional airports across the UK are suffering. Some, like Newquay and Teesside, have shut to all but the emergency services, whilst others have reduced hours of operation and severely curtailed flights. Glasgow Airport has even repurposed its long-stay car park to host a drive-through mobile Coronavirus testing centre.
It’s not just airlines and the airports that are suffering. Thousands of local businesses that rely upon them for work are hurting too – caterers, taxi drivers, cargo handlers, transport and construction workers, energy suppliers, security staff, cleaners and many others.
Back Heathrow would like to see the government urgently produce:
- Consistent regulations for Coronavirus testing at all UK airports, as part of consistent global standards to restore public confidence
- A plan to protect airlines from collapse
- A long-term plan for UK aviation.
In these worrying times people are asking why is it that passengers arriving at Heathrow from around the world, including Covid19 hotspots like China, Italy and Iran, aren’t being tested for Covid19? Instead, under a system of 'enhanced monitoring', passengers are handed information leaflets and told to self-isolate for 14 days.
John Holland-Kaye, Chief Executive of Heathrow Airport, is equally bemused, and he isn’t alone. Other UK airports are also confused by the situation. They say the absence of checks is creating a false impression that Britain's airports are more dangerous than other nations and fear this could have long-term implications on passenger numbers.
As Executive Director of Back Heathrow, I support John Holland-Kaye’s letter to Health Secretary Matt Hancock, demanding stringent regulations to combat the virus. It’s time to adopt an internationally agreed set of measures for all airports in the world, including temperature checks, antibody tests, and a requirement that all passengers carry health passports proving they are medically fit. Without such precautions the health of the nation is at further risk, making a mockery of the lockdown conditions imposed on the rest of our country.
I know the critical role air travel plays in the lives of local people and indeed the whole of the UK. There are 76,000 jobs at stake at Heathrow and many more in local supply chains and supporting industries. These people need to feed their families, pay the rent or mortgage, and spend in the local economy. They need the government to urgently agree a plan that revives confidence here.
Our national plan must include the rigorous application of social distancing as well as temperature and antibody tests at British airports.
The Coronavirus emergency has shown us just how many people we depend on in our day to day lives.
On Thursday evenings at 8pm we have been able to celebrate many of them. Whether it’s our NHS heroes – the doctors, nurses and carers who risk their lives for us every day, or others like shopkeepers, refuse workers and volunteers in our neighbourhoods. They certainly deserve all the support we can give.
Heathrow is playing its part too at this difficult time. We know that across the country there have been huge issues in getting PPE (personal protective equipment) to frontline staff.
So, it was good to see Heathrow donate 6,000 respiratory face masks in the last week to Hillingdon Hospital and the Thames Valley Air Ambulance, and more will be delivered to these frontline organisations in the next few days.
Local Heathrow Community Rangers have been terrific – out in local communities delivering donations to foodbanks.
Despite operating with only one runway, Heathrow airport has experienced a 409% rise in ‘cargo only’ flights, carrying essential medical equipment and supplies for frontline teams battling against the pandemic.
On a lighter note, for those of you with children aged between 7 and 11, you might be finding it hard to keep them occupied during this extended Easter holiday. If so, why not visit the Heathrow educational resources website: https://www.heathrow.com/company/local-community/educational-resources
The website has a fun airport cargo challenge, a comms challenge and an airport quiz to keep the kids occupied – at least for a bit.
This is going to be a strange Easter weekend for us all. But please follow the government advice – stay at home, protect the NHS and save lives.
The Back Heathrow team
A local petition, urging Ealing Council to hold a ‘free vote’ on whether the borough will back Heathrow expansion has reached over 2,000 signatories.
But the campaign has decided not to present the petition to full council in April so Ealing’s officers and councillors can focus on the crucial task of fighting Covid 19.
The petition, backed by local groups including the Indian Workers’ Association and trade unions Unite and GMB was due to be presented to the April meeting of the council.Read more
Reacting to today’s Budget, Back Heathrow Executive Director, Parmjit Dhanda said: “The Chancellor delivered his budget to Parliament today and talked about the need for economic growth.
“But if he is to deliver on his plan to control public borrowing and deliver economic growth, he needs to get on and build the new runway at Heathrow airport.”
“Plans for a new runway have been kicking around in Parliament for 17 years now. If the Chancellor is serious about delivering jobs and economic growth, it’s high time he coined his own phrase to finally 'Get Heathrow Done'.Read more
Back Heathrow, the 100,000 strong community campaign that supports a new runway for Heathrow says the Court of Appeal ruling that expansion was unlawful because it did not take climate commitments into account was hugely disappointing to local communities.
Local polling by Populus has shown that for many years in 16 of 18 constituencies around the airport more people support than oppose expansion.Read more
Supporters of Heathrow expansion understand well that not everyone agrees with us. That’s fine, because our democracy is built on the proud tradition of differing views, but in today’s world it seems some people don’t just want different opinions, they want ‘alternative’ facts.
The ‘New Economics Foundation’ (an organisation opposed to Heathrow expansion) has just published an error-filled report on Heathrow’s expansion, claiming it will be subsidised by public money, that ticket prices will rise, carbon emissions will increase costs, and money and jobs will be sucked away from the regions and nations of the UK. All of this is just plain wrong.
Back Heathrow has welcomed an announcement by the Sustainable Aviation Coalition which commits airports and airlines to cut carbon emissions to net zero by 2050.
Back Heathrow also welcomed government’s decision to bring forward the phasing out of petrol, diesel and hybrid vehicles to 2035.
Parmjit Dhanda, executive director of Back Heathrow said: “We know that vehicle traffic emissions are a major contributor to pollution in London, way more so than aviation, so this is welcome news.
“The announcement by airlines and airports, including Heathrow to cut emissions to net zero by 2050 is a huge step forward too. We know more West Londoners support than oppose Heathrow expansion because of new jobs and an economic boost.
“These two announcements will help to ensure a new runway is built whilst tackling noise, improving air quality and reducing carbon emissions.”
The coalition’s announcement is an important step forward for the expansion project. It shows that with smarter airport operations, modernised airspace, new cleaner, efficient aircraft and sustainable fuels, we can have airport development – and meet the strict targets on emissions set by government and international regulators.
The airport’s plans to further offset carbon emissions through investment in peatland restoration and tree planting schemes are also an important part of its decarbonisation roadmap.
The debate around the rescue plan for Europe’s largest independent airline, Flybe and its tax liability will be of keen interest to supporters of sustainable growth.
The rescue includes the potential deferment of over £100m in air passenger duty. APD charges for short haul flights start at £13 for economy and £26 for business/first class.
The plan also includes a Treasury review of air passenger duty as part of a Budget process to ensure that regional connectivity is supported alongside the UK’s climate change commitments to meet net zero carbon targets by 2050.
Although the tax deferment was attacked by some environmental groups, Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps defended the decision.
“Air passenger duty is not designed as an environmental tax. I think that we can do far more by reviewing the way it works. I'll give you a simple example: there are now aircraft that are being designed and about to start flying which fly on electricity. They're going to do the island hops in Scotland.”Read more