Whenever it refers to the industry, the focus from the government is on airlines, and the owners of airlines.
But overall aviation, including aerospace, is responsible for a million jobs, with another half a million tourism jobs potentially reliant on it.
Just 200,000 are directly employed by airlines. This includes ground staff, engineers, air traffic controllers, fire officers, security and countless other roles, most of which are not employed by airlines, but are funded through revenues from airlines. The industry is estimated to be worth £60 billion to the UK economy.
The aviation industry also provides lifeline services, including medevac and connectivity to remote communities, as well as search and rescue. It should also be remembered that aviation infrastructure is essential not only for passenger air travel but also for air freight.
This is an industry that has been especially badly hit by the corona virus crisis. Most flights have been grounded and thousands of workers sacked or furloughed. This impacts across the industry, including on aerospace where it won’t be long till orders are being delayed or cancelled as airlines tighten their belts and get more flight time out of existing planes.
Airlines have requested a bailout from the government at the same time as paying huge dividends to their shareholders and asking workers to take unpaid leave. It is understandable that the government is reluctant to deliver a bailout given the behaviour of some CEOs and shareholders but hundreds of thousands of jobs are at stake and the entire future of the industry.
Garry Graham, Prospect deputy general secretary, said:
“The aviation industry is fighting for its survival. That means a million jobs, skills, vital regional, national and international connectivity, and the future of the economy are at risk if the government doesn’t intervene.
“It is wholly unacceptable for ministers to glibly reference shareholders and a couple of unscrupulous owners as reason not to come to the industry’s rescue.
“Perception is important and when you equate a whole industry to two or three individuals you completely dehumanise the hundreds of thousands of workers who could lose their jobs. Those workers deserve as much consideration as any other workers at this terrible time.
“This is not just about perception though, it’s about a pragmatic regard for the future of the economy. If we have any chance of rebounding from this catastrophe then this industry which is critical to commerce and tourism, needs to be ready to restart as soon as possible.
“That means infrastructure, workforce capacity, workers themselves and their skills base, all need to be preserved.
“However you feel about Branson, Stelios or O’Leary, it is their workers and the whole economy that will pay the price if the government ignores this industry.”