AGS chief executive Derek Provan has warned that Scotland is at risk of losing its connectivity to the rest of the world if the Scottish Government fails to act decisively and soon.
The views are shared by Edinburgh Airport chief executive Gordon Dewar, who recently predicted that unless urgent action is taken, Scotland will support fewer direct routes in the future, with individuals and businesses forced to fly or export goods through London or European hub airports.
Aviation has been one of the hardest hit industries by the coronavirus crisis, with AGS having to make “significant job cuts” across its airports and its business partners, even while using the furlough scheme, as a result of low levels of flying during the last year.
The group estimates that about 30% of the workforce, which is the equivalent of 2,000 jobs alone at Glasgow airport, were laid off. Following the redundancies, 80% of the remaining staff were enlisted onto the furlough scheme.
Glasgow Airport’s latest annual results – for the pre-pandemic year ended 31 December 2019 – warned of material uncertainties “which may cast significant doubt” over its ability to continue as a going concern, with profits falling to £45m, from £57m the previous year.
Provan explained that it will be “impossible to offset” the damage from the pandemic, as despite pent up holiday demand, people who haven’t flown in 14 months will not fly three times as much to make up for it.
AGS has lost an estimated two years worth of capital investment through the pandemic and will need to make up its revenue before it can invest again.
Many airlines have cancelled leases for aircraft and are coming out of the pandemic with fewer planes. Many European airports have weathered the storm by being state owned, raising competition among airports for the smaller fleets of planes.
“There are simply less aircraft that we can try to entice to come to the region,” Provan said.
“There has to be a reason for airlines to fly to the regions, so the Scottish Government has to wake up to the fact that we could lose the connectivity that we’ve developed over the last 20 years.
“There seems to be a misconception that when this finishes, everything goes back to normal for the aviation industry, but that won’t be the case.”
He added: “There will be less airlines flying to Scotland moving forward because they don’t see the value of Scotland unless they see some meaningful dialogue from the Scottish Government to support them to come back to Scotland”
Provan renewed calls for the government to put “serious” funding into the aviation industry, arguing that the regions need sufficient investment to create the “necessary destination marketing structures” required to speak with airlines.
“We’ve tried many times to engage with the government and they refuse to do so – we believe that more jobs have been lost than could have been.
“We are a global connector – what we find very frustrating is the deliberate down-scaling of the importance of aviation to suit the rhetoric of the government during this pandemic.”
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