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Pilot union tells UK government to ‘get its act together’ as industry outlook worsens

written by Isabella Richards | June 22, 2021

A union for British pilots will march tomorrow to demand the safe return of travel as the UK aviation industry continues to collapse further than other European countries.

The Travel Day of Action, run by British Airline Pilots Association (BALPA) and held at airports across Britain tomorrow, will demand the UK government for tailored financial support and a return of restriction-free travel, as travel demand plummeted 73 per cent compared with 2019 data.

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BALPA has released the latest COVID-19 impact statistics on the aviation industry by Eurocontrol, proving UK airlines and airports have been the most affected.

“It’s official. The UK aviation industry is the hardest hit in Europe, caused by the UK government’s ludicrously cautious restrictions on international travel. Hapless ministers give all the appearance of deliberately attacking aviation and tormenting the public with their mixed messages over summer holidays,” said BALPA acting general secretary Brian Strutton.

“BALPA is demanding that the UK government gets its act together and opens the US routes and European holiday travel destinations that it has blocked with no published evidence at all.”

Strutton believes compared to other European countries, the UK government has supposedly given the aviation sector £7 billion in support, but “most of this is either standard furlough payments or loans which the industry will struggle to pay back with virtually no income”.

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Industry unions will join at Heathrow, Bristol, Edinburgh and Manchester airports in support.

Currently in the UK, due to the surge of the Delta variant, the ease of restrictions has halted.

Plans to remove all restrictions – which was set to happen this month – have now extended to 19 July.

Justice Secretary Robert Buckland said “normal” holidays were “never going to be the case” this year.

“There are going to have to be significant trade-offs,” Secretary Buckland said on Sky News’s Trevor Phillips show. “We’ve tried to strike the right balance between the natural need in some cases for international travel, but also the imperative of making sure that we do everything we can at home to contain and prevent inadvertent spread of new variants.”

However, BALPA is demanding the UK government to extend support and reintroduce travel despite increased cases.

“There is no time to hide behind task forces and reviews. This week pilots will be calling on the government to act now to save jobs by taking a transparent, evidence-based approach to travel restrictions, extending the furlough scheme and helping airlines and airports weather this storm through direct financial support,” Strutton said.

It comes after Willie Walsh, director of IATA, said the government should be making “data-driven decisions” to reopen travel again, relying on the research derived from the pandemic.

“Data can and should drive policies on restarting global travel that manage COVID-19 risks to protect populations, revive livelihoods and boost economies,” said Walsh.

While industry sources continue to call out the UK government as being overly cautious, Prime Minister Boris Johnson is determined to maintain restrictions for safety.

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