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Will the government save the aviation industry?

Written by: Emma Lunn
Details of a forthcoming government strategy for the recovery of the aviation sector have been published by the Department for Transport.

The proposals are in response to a MPs committees report titled The impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the aviation sector.

The report called for a comprehensive recovery strategy for the aviation sector which has been devastated by the coronavirus pandemic.

The Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA) estimates that more than 90,000 jobs in the travel industry have been affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

MPs had expressed concerns about the lack of detail and pace of action by the government and the Department for Transport’s Aviation Restart, Recovery and Engagement Unit, as they published their report four months into the crisis.

The government now says it will publish a strategy for the recovery of the aviation sector during the autumn.

The aviation recovery plan, to run to 2025, is expected to address some of the committee’s concerns including how to get the sector to return to growth, consumer issues, and health, safety and security.

The Department for Transport also says it is looking “at the recovery of the sector in the context of the Government’s green ambitions.”

One recommendation is that air passenger duty should be temporarily suspended – chancellor Rishi Sunak has already announced a consultation on aviation tax reform.

On passenger refunds, the government has recently announced it will also look at the Civil Aviation Authority’s enforcement powers to ensure it has the powers it needs to ensure businesses are compliant and consumers are protected.

Huw Merriman MP, chair of the transport select committee, said: “The publication of an aviation recovery plan is welcome but it cannot come quick enough for a sector devastated by the impact of coronavirus. Our report expressed a desire to see more pace and detail on government action to address the crisis. We await the government’s aviation recovery plan and will look carefully at how government intends to deal with some of the specific points in our report.

“The government’s quarantine regime, coupled by a refusal to endorse airport testing to reduce the quarantine period, adds further barriers to travel. Whilst the government’s approach can be argued for on health grounds, it also further justifies the committee’s original call for the government to provide a sector deal to support our ailing aviation industry and its workforce.”

Rory Boland, Which? Travel editor, said: “A government recovery plan for the aviation sector can’t come soon enough for the countless consumers who have been left chasing billions of pounds in unpaid refunds, with their cash being used to prop up struggling operators during the coronavirus pandemic.

“The government should swiftly publish this plan and details of how it will support carriers and tour operators that are unable to meet their legal obligations to refund passengers in a timely manner, to prevent trust in the industry from falling any further.

“Ministers should also extend the CAA’s enforcement powers to allow it to finally hold airlines to account with tough penalties, including fines for breaking consumer law.”

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