Located in the adjoining constituency, Manchester Airport employs more than 650 of my constituents. There are many more who are involved with the travel industry, supporting the industry is incredibly important to me and those I represent.
Coronavirus has had an undeniably devastating impact upon the travel industry, with flights down by around 90% at Manchester Airport. In normal times, we would have expected close to 30 million passengers to pass through our airport, but this year we have seen less than 10 million so far, with the majority travelling before lockdown. This drop in travel has also had a knock-on effect for cargo passing through the airport.
The Greater Manchester economy relies strongly on the airport – indeed, it is the main airport for many in the North. The issues that the travel industry is facing locally do not end with our airport – there are many constituents who are employees of British Airways who are furloughed and are waiting to find out if they will be subject to ‘firing and re-hiring’ practices, an unimaginable stress during this time. I have encouraged BA to find alternative ways of saving money and continue to work with colleagues on highlighting this case with Government.
The travel industry is unique in that once demand returns, it is incredibly difficult for companies to scale back up again – capacity is needed far more quickly. There are various ways that the travel industry can be supported, including reviewing the 2-metre social distancing rule. Whilst the UK has implemented 2-metres, countries such as France, Denmark and Singapore have successfully been following a one-metre rule, and Germany and Austria have followed a 1.5-metre guideline. The World Health Organisation recommends a minimum distance of one metre between different household groups and as we see the infection rate decline and the situation change, it is right that we review guidance. Although a good starting point, temperature check at the airport will inevitably miss those who are asymptomatic or yet to display symptoms. Mandatory face coverings will help, as will the hand sanitiser stations at Manchester Airport. However, the industry would benefit hugely from a support package, perhaps even a specific furlough scheme.
As long as Covid is a threat and confidence in travel is low or travel restrictions remain, the travel industry will be negatively impacted. I will continue supporting those employed in the travel industry and working with colleagues in Government and Greater Manchester, the Airport and in the travel industry to find positive resolutions for those affected.