More than two months on from the promised but yet to emerge government support for the UK’s beleaguered aviation industry, the UK’s leading aviation union is warning that without urgent action regional economies will take a big hit destroying the Prime Minster’s pledge to ‘level up’ the economy.
Research commissioned by Unite the union highlights the vast economic contributions airports make to regional economies and details the devastating effect that closure of an airport or severe reductions in activity would have on the local area. An estimated 1.2 million UK workers rely on aviation for their employment, many of them in the airports, airlines, retail, services and transport jobs associated with air travel.
The report is published 24 hours after the sector suffered yet another blow as airline easyJet announced plans to cut its workforce by 30 per cent. easyJet is a hugely important player in terms of regional airports with a base at Belfast International Airport.
Unite’s research details how Northern Ireland is particularly reliant on air travel to ensure connectivity to the UK mainland but its two major airports Belfast International and Belfast City are also major employers, supporting 4,000 workers who are directly employed at the airports. City of Derry airport also provides vital connectivity to the Northwest and plays a vital role in the local economy.
The new research Economic and social importance of the UK’s regional airports further develops the key messages found in Unite’s own blueprint UKaviation flying into the future which provides details of the actions needing to be taken by the government to protect airlines and airports and to preserve jobs and conditions in the sector, which has been severely impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Unite is warning that without a specific bespoke package for the aviation industry tens of thousands of jobs could soon be lost. All airports are impacted and smaller regional airports may even be forced to close permanently
Unite regional secretary for Ireland Jackie Pollock said: “Airports are hubs for massive economic activity for our towns and cities, supporting jobs from cabin crew and ground handling to engineers and cleaners.
“But across the UK they are facing huge challenges at the moment and need urgent assistance to secure a future where they can continue to provide these vitally important routes and support millions of direct and indirect jobs.
“The prime minister himself made clear yesterday that he is committed to levelling up the economy, to spread the economic benefits more fairly. That really must mean helping our airports through these tough times as, possibly more than any other industry, they provide jobs and incomes in every corner of the country.
“To lose them or see them diminish as employers will open up huge holes in local economies the length and breadth of the country.
“It is crucial that regional airports in Northern Ireland are supported by the government to safeguard connectivity and to ensure our economy is not irrevocably damaged with mass job losses in a major employer at the heart of our economy.
“It is vital to preserve our regional connectivity and to secure its enhancement through support for specific routes through public service obligation funding.”
“Our airports are central to our infrastructure and vital for business, travel and even the NHS. They must be preserved for the nation’s benefit.”
Unite is urging those concerned to safeguard Northern Ireland’s airports to contact their local MP to lobby the government and explain how airports and the entire aviation sector needs specific financial support