British Airways suspends Gatwick flights due to Covid-19

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British Airways is suspending all its flights to and from Gatwick amid a collapse in demand caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

The carrier said it will temporarily stop serving the UK’s second busiest airport “due to the considerable restrictions and challenging market environment”.

Just 33 flights are due to take off or land at the West Sussex airport on Tuesday, according to aviation data provider FlightStats.

Airlines have cancelled the majority of their flights because of the virus.

On Monday, easyJet announced it has grounded its entire fleet of 344 aircraft, saying the move “removes significant cost”.

Airports are responding to the collapse in flight numbers by significantly scaling down their operations.

From Wednesday, Gatwick’s runway will only be open for scheduled flights between 2pm and 10pm, and one of its two terminals will be closed.

London City Airport is closed to commercial and private flights while Southend Airport is only open three days per week.

The Airport Operators Association (AOA) claimed the UK is “lagging behind its international competitors” in supporting its aviation industry.

It highlighted a series of measures announced by nations around the world to support their airports and airlines.

These include:
– Airlines in the US being given access to 58 billion US dollars (£47 billion) in loans and grants

– A relief package for the aviation industry in Australia worth 715 million Australian dollars (£355 million)

– The French government setting out plans for 700 million euros (£622 million) of tax aid to airlines

AOA chief executive Karen Dee said other countries have recognised the “vital” role airports play in services such as postal deliveries, search and rescue, and offshore oil and gas operations.

It is “time for the UK Government to step up to the plate”, she demanded.

She added: “Aviation was at the forefront of the impact of Covid-19, but we appear to be at the back of the queue when it comes to Government providing targeted support.”

The International Air Transport Association has estimated that the UK could see 113.5 million fewer passengers travelling through its airports in 2020 – a drop of more than a third compared with 2019.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps told BBC Breakfast the Government is having “active and ongoing discussions” with airlines and airports “to try to ensure that we come out of this and there’s a proper market, proper competition still available”.

But he said he expects shareholders to “do their bit”.

He has previously said the Government’s furlough scheme would be important for the aviation industry.

This involves paying 80% of salaries up to £2,500 per month for staff asked to stop working but kept on the payroll.

Scottish regional airline Loganair has confirmed it plans to ask the Government for more support in the coming days.

UK airlines are working with the Government to help stranded Britons get home.

The Foreign Office has set aside £75 million to charter flights from areas where commercial routes are no longer running.

In areas where commercial flights can still run, the Government will work with airlines to get people back.

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