COVID-19: Heathrow, Gatwick and Manchester airports could shut ‘within weeks’ over outbreak

UK airports have warned they will shut down ‘within weeks’ without Government intervention amid a global outbreak of coronavirus.

Trade body the Airport Operators Association (AOA) urged ministers to unveil a series of measures to help airports amid dwindling passenger numbers.

This includes providing or organising emergency financing ‘as a measure of last resort’, suspending Air Passenger Duty for six months and allowing VAT payments to be deferred.

AOA chief executive Karen Dee said: “Governments across the world are supporting their national aviation industries, as many parts of the global travel industry have come to a halt. As some airlines call on the UK Government to act similarly, we are clear that airports will shut down in weeks unless urgent action is taken to support the industry.

“The Government must step in to see airports across the four home nations through the current crisis, and make an unequivocal commitment to doing whatever it takes to sustain the UK aviation industry. For the sake of the UK economy it is essential for the UK Government to catch up to its peers across the continent and provide support to the sector and the wider economy through financing, guarantees, grants and tax relief.

Airlines have cancelled thousands of flights and announced plans to ground the majority of their aircraft due to travel restrictions and the drop in demand for flights.

Heathrow Airport has cancelled executive pay and frozen recruitment over the coming months. It said in a statement on Monday that it is taking “immediate steps to safeguard the financial resilience of our business including the protection of jobs”.

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