Manchester Airport and the Local Economy

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:20 pm on 2nd July 2020.

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Photo of Navendu Mishra Navendu Mishra Labour, Stockport 4:20 pm, 2nd July 2020

I refer hon. Members to my entry in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests in relation to Unite the union, of which I am a member. Unite represents thousands of workers in the aviation industry and has been campaigning for Government support for the sector throughout the covid-19 pandemic. I also pay tribute to my hon. Friend Mike Kane, who has been a tireless campaigner for workers at Manchester airport.

Manchester airport is a core part of Greater Manchester’s economy. It employs 25,000 people directly on site and 76,000 indirectly, generating £4.5 billion for the local economy. It has links to 210 destinations—more than any other UK airport—and is an international gateway for trade and travel, acting as a major draw for investment and development in Greater Manchester, giving our region a huge competitive advantage. For example, in the past two years its direct route to China has helped to grow export values in the north by 41%, bringing with it £250 million to the visitor economy.

The whole supply chain relies on a successful Manchester airport. Catering companies such as Newrest and hotel chains such as Hilton have been affected by the lack of footfall during lockdown and have been forced to make cuts. Furthermore, an Independent Transport Commission report revealed that 55% of the workforce in the area surrounding Manchester airport are employed by aviation businesses. As a result, Manchester airport is central to everything we do in the north-west and will be a major catalyst for kick-starting the regional economy as we emerge from the first phase of the coronavirus crisis.

The fallout from covid-19 has been catastrophic, with passenger levels and revenue dropping to historic lows of between 1% and 4% of those seen in the same period last year. Thousands of workers face redundancy if the Government do not intervene to save the airport, its airlines and the businesses that rely on it as a key hub. More than 1,500 redundancies have been proposed to date, with well over half of them at Swissport. Widespread losses have already been reported for airlines including Virgin, Ryanair, Jet2, TUI and—just this week—easyJet, with more to follow in the coming weeks.

Manchester Airports group, which also operates London Stansted and East Midlands airports, faces a difficult restructuring programme with 25% of its leadership and management positions being cut and the remaining 75% subject to restructuring. All of that will take place before the end of the furlough scheme, when further redundancies are almost certain to follow. While the furlough scheme has been of some help, the money is little more than a drop in the ocean, accounting for just 5% of the airport’s fixed costs.

The situation will not simply end with a resumption in air travel. Even with an increased number of air bridges and an end to quarantine, the aviation industry has warned that it may not return to anything like normality until the second half of 2021, and even then the numbers are expected to be at only about 90% of pre-crisis levels. The Government must therefore consider a sectoral support package that ensures the industry has the backing and confidence it needs to recover as quickly as possible, mitigate job losses and protect skilled jobs.