18 JANUARY 2021


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Article from BTNews 18 JANUARY 2021

COMMENT: Always look on the bright side (of life)

The travel embargo

The Prime Minister’s words on Friday evening concerning inbound travellers to the United Kingdom were devastating but not unexpected.  For once the travel industry was more or less in agreement even if not in detail.

Over the weekend aviation minster Robert Courts confirmed in a Tweet that the long-promised financial support scheme for airports in England would open this month, but gave no firm date.  He said the move was a response to the closure of all UK air corridors from today (15 January).

ABTA, at the sharp end of the business, is a trade association covering a multiplex of operators, large, who can sometimes find ways of redemption, to small single outlet enterprises without the resources to fall back on.

Its response to the PM's statement in many ways spoke for all.

“Travel has been affected by the pandemic for over 10 months now, with travel businesses generating little or no income during this time, yet unlike other sectors, such as hospitality and the arts, the Westminster Government hasn’t provided any sector-specific support. The Government needs to address this as a matter of urgency, not only for the jobs and businesses at risk in the sector, but in recognition of the important role the travel industry will play in the UK’s economic recovery and achieving their vision of a Global Britain".

BALPA, whilst specific for its members, said much the same.  “These are dire times and we need a clear plan of action and a proper package of support or the UK aviation industry will not be there to support the post Covid-19 recovery.”

The AOA (Airport Operators Association) has expressed much the same thing. “The UK and devolved governments now need to set out as a matter of extreme urgency how they will support airports through this deepening crisis. Business rate support, announced last year and in England not yet even open to applications, is no longer sufficient to ensure airports can weather the difficult months ahead.

However a note of caution is required.  Representing amongst others the three major UK carriers, British Airways, easyJet and Virgin Atlantic, Airlines UK has called for restraint “We must work hand in hand with government regardless.”

In a few weeks’ time transport secretary Grant Shapps is due to speak to the Airline Club in what is in effect a public (video) forum open to all.  By that time hopefully things will have become far clearer and he will be in a position to deal with questions in a positive and candid manner.

We are a sports-loving nation.  Rogers & Hammerstein’s ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ took over the airwaves just a few weeks ago.  Monty Python’s ‘Always Look on the Bright Side (of Life)’ is a fine rendition which we should now grab.

“Some things in life are bad
They can really make you mad
Other things just make you swear and curse
When you're chewing on life's gristle
Don't grumble, give a whistle
And this'll help things turn out for the best"

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OUR READERS' FINEST WORDS (All times and dates are GMT)

All comments are filtered to exclude any excesses but the Editor does not have to agree with what is being said. 100 words maximum

Nigel Goddard,

In comparing us with Aystralia, remember Australia is severly liniting the number of arriving people and flights, so their quarantine camps can cope with numbers. We'e letting in enough flights tat we caouldn't handle the volume of pasengers getting off those flights and walking in to hotels nearby to stay for up to 2 weeks.

Andrew Sharp, Surbiton

I was taken aback by Mr Raab's reaction to the suggestion that arriving passengers should have to isolate in a hotel room for 14 days: he clearly didn't think it was possible. Yet on the same news bulletin (BBC1 Sunday afternoon) it was said that Australia does just this. In Saturday's FT their HK correspondent described her experiences of doing exactly this, and the packages being offered by hotel groups for this kind of customer.

John Jones,

There is no business like aviation that has over many year demonstrated that when the head of the inverted pyramid explodes there is no shortage of hopefuls to step into that space. This is one sector where hope conquers experience every time.

Sally Smith, Glasgow

It’s taken a very long time to get this far. Why cannot the government give a firm date and stick to it.

James Bright, London NW

Well done ABTA. In some ways it is a sort of collective speaking for all in travel.