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UK lawmakers, union call for extra state help for aviation sector

LONDON, Aug 28 (Reuters) - More than 100 British lawmakers have joined forces with trade union Unite to urge the government to provide extra state support to airlines and airports as travel slumps due to the coronavirus pandemic and job losses increase.

With travel still subdued, the lawmakers signed a letter asking for the government’s job retention scheme, which pays employees a proportion of their salary while they temporarily do not work, to be extended to next March for the aviation sector.

The scheme is set to close for all businesses by the end of October.

Airlines including British Airways easyJet and Virgin Atlantic have already announced almost 20,000 job cuts between them and Unite said 60,000 jobs in the aviation sector were “hanging in the balance”.

Extending the job retention scheme could prevent more job losses, said a statement from Unite on Friday.

“This would make all the difference in ensuring our aviation industry recovers, which is of invaluable importance to the UK economy,” said the letter signed by lawmakers and addressed to finance minister Rishi Sunak.

“It would also ensure that the skills and the infrastructure that the industry requires to return to capacity are retained.”

Britain’s quarantine rules on countries with higher infection rates such as Spain and France have dealt a new blow to aviation, deterring travel and quashing hopes of a recovery after planes were grounded during lockdowns earlier this year.

As well as airports and airlines, there are tens of thousands of related jobs in the aviation supply chain, the letter said, adding that companies faced high levels of uncertainty over the coming winter, always a tougher period for aviation due to the industry’s seasonal nature.

Unite said it also wanted the government to help the industry by suspending air passenger duty, a tax on flying, plus provide business rate relief for airports in England, and give aviation companies more time to repay loans. (Reporting by Sarah Young, editing by Elizabeth Piper)

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