Government announcement of financial aid for airports as well as shorter quarantine times for arrivals has been welcomed by Liverpool Airport. Tony McDonough reports
Liverpool John Lennon Airport (LJLA) will be able to claim a financial lifeline worth up to £8m from a COVID-19 support fund for English Airports unveiled by the Government.
And LJLA chief executive John Irving has also welcomed the decision to cut the current two-week quarantine period for people arriving into the country to five days – providing they receive a negative COVID test.
Aviation has been badly hit by the pandemic. Liverpool’s two biggest airlines have seen passenger numbers plummet since March amid Euro-wide restrictions and lockdowns. Trade picked up in the summer but a resurgence of the virus in recent weeks has proved a major setback. Last week easyJet reported annual losses of £1.2bn.
This, in turn, has impacted badly on regional airports such as Liverpool which saw its normal busy summer season become almost a write-off. In a normal year the airport would expect to handle more than 5m passengers. That number is set to be significantly lower for 2020.
Now the Government has recognised the predicament faced by regional airports and has announced a financial support scheme. It will address fixed costs and be equivalent to the business rates liabilities of each airport. It will be capped at £8m and be open in 2021.
And, with LJLA set to offer flights to more than 30 destinations over the Christmas period, Mr Irving says the decision to cut the self-isolation period for new arrivals to five days was an “encouraging step in the right direction”. From December 15, people arriving in the UK will initially have to isolate for five days. If they then take a test which comes back negative their quarantine can end.
“Further improvements to this test and release system will still need to be made in order to see passengers return to flying in far greater numbers,” added Mr Irvine. “In the short term, cheaper and quicker tests are needed and to ultimately eliminate any need for quarantine altogether.
“With airlines planning to operate flights to over 30 destinations from Liverpool in the run up to Christmas, today’s announcement will make it more attractive for passengers looking to travel from here over the coming weeks.
“The Government’s decision to also provide some long-awaited financial support specific to our industry is welcome news too. This is vital as we look to face the challenging months ahead and hopefully see the start of what will undoubtedly be a slow recovery.”