Pandemic state aid for EU airports ‘outstripped UK level by up to ten times’

UK airports are at risk of being overshadowed by EU rivals due to low levels of state aid offered during the pandemic.

A report to be published this week will reportedly reveal that British airports received £272 million in government support against €2.5 billion (£2.1 billion) handed to rivals in Germany.

Bailouts to airports in Italy totalled €751 million.

A report into state aid by the Airport Operators Association found that UK airports handled fewer passengers in 2021 compared with the previous year, but this trend was reversed on the Continent.

The trade body’s chair Baroness Ruby McGregor-Smith told the Telegraph: “With our competitors investing heavily in their airports during the pandemic and for their recovery, the UK is at risk of being outcompeted.”

She called on ministers to deliver an aviation recovery package including a 12-month suspension of Air Passenger Duty.

The Tory peer added: “Levelling up and the UK government’s global Britain ambitions will not happen unless aviation can successfully recover and bring back the routes businesses rely on for economic success.”

UK airports suffered a £10 billion loss in revenue during the two years of the pandemic and had been forced to shoulder an additional £4 billion in debt, the AOA reportedly calculated.

Association chief executive Karen Dee said: “The pandemic wreaked havoc in aviation in the two years since the first lockdown was announced.

“Airports have suffered huge revenue losses and had to take on significant amounts of debt to keep operations going.

“They come out of this pandemic in worse financial health than many of our European and US competitors, placing the UK at a disadvantage in recovering our pre-pandemic connectivity.

“We will be competing fiercely with other countries for the return of airlines and routes. We cannot afford for the UK to lag behind our global competitors.”

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