Message to MPs

Fragmented Covid plan ‘not helpful’ say airport chiefs

Glasgow airport at the height of the pandemic

Scotland’s airports have criticised inconsistent travel restrictions across the UK for undermining confidence among consumers.

Spokesmen for the airports in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen and the Highlands told MPs that that a more coordinated approach would have been better for the sector and passengers.

Gordon Dewar, chief executive of Edinburgh Airport, told the Scottish Affairs committee that there had been a “complete collapse in consumer confidence because the restrictions have been overly complex”.

Brian McClean, communications officer for Glasgow and Aberdeen, said: “It is important there is a joined up approach” while Inglis Lyon, managing director of Highlands and Island Airports, added: “The lack of a four nations approach on international travel was not helpful at all and difficult to explain.”

Mr Dewar said Edinburgh had lost £100 million and had taken on additional debt and warned that there were still few signs of international visitor numbers recovering.

He said uncertainty was a big factor in discouraging travellers from booking flights.

“Consumers just do not know what to expect,” he said.

Mr McClean said passenger levels at Glasgow had sunk from 9m in 2019 to 2m in 2021, a figure last seen in 1973.

He said strong bookings since last weekend after the lifting of testing restrictions showed there was pent-up demand.

MPs heard that the three biggest airports have collectively laid off 4,400 workers during the pandemic, 2,000 at both Edinburgh and Glasgow, and 400 at Aberdeen.

Mr Dewar and Mr McClean echoed previous concern over the Scottish Government subsidy for little used Prestwick, which the government is trying to sell.

“Having a subsidised airport is not helpful,” said Mr Dewar. “It skews the playing field whether you have Covid or not.

“I am at a loss to see what is achieved from that sort of subsidy.

Mr McClean agreed that the subsidy skews the market and added: “We could do with similar levels of funding which would go a long way to helping us get back on our feet.

“We have said there needs to be an end-game as this is a disadvantage to Glasgow.”

Aberdeenshire businesses warn of job cuts

More than 40% of north-east businesses will need to cut jobs if existing Covid-19 restrictions are extended or strengthened further, according to a new survey.

A flash poll by Aberdeen & Grampian Chamber of Commerce (AGCC) has uncovered large levels of financial distress among companies, with almost a third (31%) at moderate or high risk of collapse should pandemic curbs continue.

Three-quarters (76%) now feel that the government is not balancing health and economic harms correctly when drafting policy.

The survey, which was held over the weekend and drew 170 responses, comes as new UK Government data shows that Scotland is currently performing no better than England at curtailing the virus, despite stricter measures on hospitality, nightclubs, home working and events.

The case rate per 100,000 population, as published on Sunday evening, was 2,026 in Scotland, compared to 1,924 in England, where fewer restrictions are in place and large events, such as Premier League football, have continued. 

Almost two-thirds (65%) of respondents to the AGCC poll believe that the restrictions in place are no longer proportionate to the risk posed by Omicron.

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