The trade body Airlines UK has warned that the coronavirus pandemic may do irreparable damage to the country’s aviation industry if it does not get emergency support from the government.
“We're talking about the future of UK aviation - one of our world-class industries - and unless the government pulls itself together who knows what will be left of it once we get out of this mess”, Airlines UK said in a message on Sunday, warning against London’s “prevarication” and “bean counting”.
The government responded by stressing in a statement that they are in the know about UK airlines-related problems, adding that they are “engaging with the sector's leadership to support workers, businesses, and passengers”.
“We have influenced the European Commission to relax flight slots and HMRC [Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs non-ministerial department of the UK Government] is ready to help all businesses, including airlines, and self-employed individuals, experiencing temporary financial difficulties due to coronavirus”, the government pointed out.
The statement comes after British Airways warned its employees on Friday that the UK’s aviation industry is facing a "crisis of global proportions" due to the COVID-19 outbreak, which is even worse than one caused by the SARS virus or the 9/11 attacks.
The air carrier’s head Alex Cruz, for his part, cautioned that British Airways will ground flights "like never before", amid staff lay-offs.
US Extends Its European Travel Ban
The developments come after US Vice President Mike Pence announced earlier on Sunday Washington’s plans to extend the Europe travel ban to the UK and the Republic of Ireland. The ban is due to enter force at midnight EST on Monday (04:00 GMT Tuesday).
Earlier, the Trump administration slapped temporary travel restrictions on 26 EU member states as the World Health Organisation (WHO) confirmed that the coronavirus outbreak had morphed into a pandemic. EU leaders reacted angrily to the travel ban, blaming Washington for taking the step “without consultation”.
According to the WHO, more than 152,400 people have already been diagnosed with coronavirus in 141 countries, with Europe remaining the epicentre of the outbreak.