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BALPA writes to Government for support to weather the Omicron storm

Pilots say Government must provide winter support so aviation can weather the Omicron storm.

The British Airline Pilots’ Association has written to Government to call for support for the aviation sector during the deep uncertainty and shattered confidence that the response to Omicron has brought to the market.

BALPA supports the Government’s desire to protect the population through effective and data-led measures, but without needlessly causing economic harm, so welcomed the Health Secretary’s assurances that these additional restrictions would be removed if this variant is no more a threat than the Delta variant.

The pilots’ union highlighted that with challenges to the aviation industry set to worsen, it is right that Government funds all required tests and takes new action to support airlines through these months ahead. BALPA’s immediate asks of Government are:

  1. All mandatory tests for travellers to be provided free by the NHS and not ‘cowboy’ private testing companies, whose profits will largely be made off the backs of families re-connecting over the holidays, many for the first time since Covid. The cost to Treasury would be negligible and the expensive, inconsistent and poor reputation of private testing providers has long been an inhibiting – and at times entirely prohibitive – factor for travellers.
  2. Additional restrictions must be only data led, ensuring effective border controls do their job whilst allowing safe travel to resume. The Government has published no data to justify the latest restrictions, which the World Health Organisation has spoken out against.
  3. Provide a Winter Resilience Fund to provide an ‘airbridge’ of funding for cash strapped airlines and other aviation companies that continue to be loss making, yet need to provide high levels of regular training to maintain vital skills with expensive to run equipment, such as cockpit simulators.

BALPA General Secretary Martin Chalk said:

“Pilots by their very nature are safety conscious and understand the desire to protect public health. But the measures and restrictions put in place by the Government must be proportionate to risk, based on data and not unnecessarily penalise travellers including families reuniting for Christmas and the New Year.

“It is vital the Government helps rebuild public confidence and supports aviation by removing the barriers, such as costly private testing, that are putting people off travelling.

“Support to aviation dried up at the end of Summer, yet the principle of supporting loss-making industries whilst Government restrictions prevent business as usual, applies as much now as it ever did.

“Holiday and new year traffic is a core part of the winter season for airlines. With this being severely depressed by shattered confidence and restrictions, we need winter support measures to help us weather the storm of Omicron uncertainty. This will ensure we are able to compete with the rest of the world come Summer 2022, when we will be needed to take the UK’s ambitions to every corner of the globe.”