Is the Government refusing to bail out airlines because it thinks they have no future?

Virgin Atlantic
Virgin Atlantic is the latest carrier to announce job cutsCredit: BEN STANSALL/ AFP

One key sector that feels let down by the Government’s coronavirus financial package is the airline industry. Virgin Atlantic is the latest company to shed jobs, with 3,000 lost – one third of its total workforce. It is now pulling its operations out of Gatwick Airport. BA has already announced 12,000 job cuts and Ryanair 3,000. Heathrow Airport, which in a normal day would see 600 flights, now has 60. The future of plane makers and engine manufacturers is bleak.

2020欧洲杯网站These were viable businesses whose futures have been placed in jeopardy by both the pandemic and the response of governments around the world to suppress it. Within the space of a few months the business models of an entire industry have been wrecked.

Their difficulty is that, even were the lockdown to be eased tomorrow, passenger numbers will not return to pre-virus levels for years, if ever. As Heathrow’s chief executive wrote in this newspaper, social distancing measures at airports would require a kilometre-long queue to board a jumbo jet. Faced with yet more hurdles to travel, millions will simply not bother.

The Government has resisted pressure to bail out the airlines despite pressure from owners and unions. Ministers say they will not offer a separate package beyond the help offered to all businesses. Some campaigners have objected to money being used to help someone like Sir Richard Branson, the Virgin Atlantic owner.

But if these companies go under, the wider economic impact will be enormous. Has the Government concluded that it would be pointless to spend more taxpayers’ money on the aviation industry because it has no future?