Insight

Airports’ SOS finally heard by ministers

UK airports are to receive new financial support after ministers finally succumbed to months of pleading from the sector.

The support, which will become available in the new year, will be equivalent to the business rates liabilities of each airport, but capped at £8 million per site.

Airports in England and Wales have lagged behind their Scottish and Northern Irish counterparts which had liabilities cancelled for the current rate year 2020/21.

Belatedly some would say, Chancellor Rishi Sunak has acknowledged that: “The aviation industry is vital to our economy – creating jobs and driving growth. This new package of support for airports, alongside a new testing regime for international arrivals, will help the sector take off once again as we build back better from the pandemic.”

The Airport Operators’ Association has welcomed the news, Chief executive Karen Dee saying: “We are pleased that the Government has listened to our calls for business rates relief for airports in England. The measures … will provide much-needed support to many embattled airports, helping them through the challenging months ahead.”

However, not all airports will see full business rates relief and many industry forecasts do not see passenger numbers recovering to pre-covid levels for 3-5 years.

Other airports, whilst welcoming the relief see the funds as a drop in the ocean. Heathrow, for example, faces a business rates bill of £120m for the current year so the £8m cap would account for a refund of just 6.6 per cent.

Similarly, Manchester Airport has the dubious honour of being the North West’s third largest rate payer for this financial year. With a Rateable Value of £27.6m and  assuming it claims the maximum £8m on offer, this still leaves a deficit of millions to be found from somewhere.

And, perhaps, to try and put the scale of the revenue drop-off into context Gatwick Airport yesterday saw only two flights depart.

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