Lib Dems lead cross-party call for urgent support for airlines in return for climate action

The Liberal Democrats are leading a cross-party effort to secure Government agreement for an economic package to support the UK’s airlines in return to commitments to tackle the climate emergency.

Writing to the Chancellor, the cross-party group of parliamentarians have warned that without government support future fares may raise while “tens of thousands more will lose their jobs through no fault of their own.”

MPs from across the political spectrum have signed the letter and agreed “if public money is used to save them, they must be required by law to do more to tackle climate change.”

Liberal Democrat Transport Spokesperson, Sarah Olney, coordinated the letter. She said:

The Coronavirus crisis is an unprecedented threat. Thousands of families will face financial hardship, including many who rely on employment in the airline and travel industries.

The Government must urgently resolve the gaps in their plans and come forward with a bespoke package to airlines and travel operators to stop job losses. But support should come at a price. Airlines, airports and travel operators are one of the biggest single contributors to global emissions and they must be made to do more to tackle climate change.

Liberal Democrats are therefore calling on the Government to step in and offer financial support to travel companies in need. By providing funds to the travel industry and demanding that they implement strict carbon offsetting schemes, we can help save both the planet and jobs.

Dear Chancellor,

We’re writing to you to draw attention to one of the industries most adversely impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. Many of the nation’s airlines and travel operators are struggling to survive due to grounded flights and cancelled bookings.

It is right that national and international movement has been curbed to slow the spread of the pandemic but it should come with support for the vast majority of travel companies whose revenues have all but disappeared.

Although the Government has rightly put in place support loans and schemes to protect employment these have proven insufficient for many larger travel companies. Banks have been reluctant to lend to such firms due to the loss of income and whose revenues are unlikely to recover for some time. Many travel companies, especially airlines, have been unable to significantly reduce their costs.

The Government must offer a bespoke solution to the industry’s problems. Whether this takes the form of convertible loans alongside investors, low interest loans, grants or a combination of all three, the Government must step in to save jobs. If we do not prevent the collapse of airlines and travel operators, tens of thousands more will lose their jobs through no fault of their own. We may then be left with only a handful of companies that will monopolise the industry reducing competition, raising prices and reducing employment opportunities.

However, any support package offered to airlines and travel companies must come with stringent conditions. In return for financial assistance airlines must pay no dividends to their owners, refund their customers for cancelled bookings and rehire fired employees, who then must be furloughed. Support should be given to protect livelihoods, not profits.

Furthermore, to ensure that all travel companies do more to tackle the climate crisis, they must be obliged to follow in the footsteps of many in the industry that have implemented ambitious carbon offsetting schemes. Airlines, airports and travel operators are one of the biggest single contributors to global emissions and they must be made to do more. If public money is used to save them, they must be required by law to do more to tackle climate change.

All travel companies, including the UK’s best-known airlines, cruise operators and airports have done their bit to keep people safe and save lives. We only ask that they be given the support they are owed.

Yours sincerely,

Sarah Olney
Liberal Democrat Transport Spokesperson

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  • Richard Underhill 27th Apr '20 - 6:59pm

    Travel companies are currently refusing to repay travellers deposits and other payments because of shortages of cash flow. Vouchers are insufficient and may carry expiry dates.
    The Chancellor’s announcements today will help some of them to some extent.

  • Paul Barker 27th Apr '20 - 7:01pm

    To me this seems like a classic example of our lack of courage.
    We should be saying an absolute No to any money for Airlines/Airports. Let them go bust.

    New Airlines would be started after Travel restrictions are eased but they would start small, with New managements; there would be a much better chance of pushing them in a lower-carbon direction.

    While we are on the subject of Airlines how about New Rules banning Planes from flying over built up areas ?

  • There is no climate emergency. The phrase was dreamt up by the Guardian and is an exaggeration designed to mislead, dramatise and frighten.

  • “urgent support for airlines in return for climate action”. I hope not the offshore ones like Virgin.

    @ Peter “There is no climate emergency. The phrase was dreamt up by the Guardian and is an exaggeration designed to mislead, dramatise and frighten”.

    It’s bed time, Peter. Don’t forget to take your Trumpian ‘medicinal compound, … most efficacious in every way’.

  • @David, very funny, but not as amusing as the Guardian.

    Today they are claiming that 2020 is in line to be the hottest year since records began. They neglect to mention that records began around 1870 just as we emerged from the Little Ice Age that lasted hundreds of years. They also forgot to mention that before the LIA we had the Medieval warm Period which was considerably hotter than today.

    I deal in facts, not delusion.

  • Airlines must be able to fail.
    There are far too many flying only 3/4 full planes (sometimes even less)
    Less competition, less empty seats and charge more for seats.

    Air travel should not be cheap, it is a massive polluter and should be taxed accordingly.

    We need fewer planes in the air if we are going to reduce carbon emissions.

    No Bailouts for any airline where the owners are not domiciled in the Uk for personal taxes
    No Bailouts for airlines that have poor records for paying customers legally entitled to refunds

    I was absolutely amazed to see Virgin Australia going cap in hand to the Australian Government for a bailout when the company is part-owned by the Government of Abu Dhabi and Singapore, why should Australia bailout a company that is part-owned by another country, I am glad they put their foot down and allowed the airline to fail.

  • Does UK Inc make a profit out of tourism? If most of the Brits took their holiday here and most foreign tourists didn’t come here due to lack of air travel would there be a net gain or loss? Heathrow, with its reasonable transport links to Central London, would, for instance, make an ideal site for housing if completely closed down and could perhaps be bought on the cheap by the govn and then sold at a nice profit to housing companies with some of it kept for half price houses for frontline workers.

  • John Marriott 28th Apr '20 - 9:25am

    It may seem obtuse, vindictive even; but hopefully not ‘snide’, Jennie; but, you know, I really do think that a few airlines should fail, as well as a few cruise lines. And what about the ‘modal shift’ away from cars in favour of other forms of transport, both personal and public? Why should we just ‘get on a plane’ and jet off more than, as it appears to be for many people, a couple of times a year to exotic places? Also, surely social distancing, which could be the norm for some time to come, is better achieved sealed in a box with four wheels than being cramped in a carriage or bus with many other people on both long and short journeys, with masks or no masks? Why, there might even still be a case for single use plastic bags etc., provided that they are disposed of correctly!

    You see, all the George Monbiots of this world, and the rest of us for that matter, may need to recalibrate our thinking in light of what is happening around us, not that george and co are entirely wrong. I just wish that they would stop sounding so sanctimonious – and the same applies to newspapers like The Guardian.

    As in previous crises the private sector nearly always looks to the public sector to bail it out – let’s nationalise debt and privatise profit, hey, chaps? It’s time that the worm turned – and that applies to all those people, who expect to lead their lives as THEY want to do without giving a thought to others less fortunate than themselves. It’s interesting how many billionaires, Branson and Trump are two examples that immediately spring to mind, didn’t start off with nothing.

    There, I feel a lot better. Now let me finish off my porridge!

  • Richard Underhill 28th Apr '20 - 9:33am

    We won in the bye-election, working with others.
    Zac Goldsmith’s campaign for London Mayor was a disgrace, echoed by David Cameron

  • YES, exactly !!!

    Enjoy said porridge and regards to Ronnie Barker.

  • There is no way of saving the airlines. Easy and open travel is dead. You can’t go on holiday and spend two weeks in quarantine. It is not an attractive proposition. What are holiday makers to do if they can’t really go anywhere and can’t do anything when they get there? Don’t go on the beach, stay indoors and minimise unnecessary trips is not compatible with a family vacation. For the young holidays are about hooking up and hanging out with each other. There is fat chance of that in the neo-puritanical world created by “social distancing” and the uncompromising war on fun under the dictatorship of curtain twitchers. Without a vaccine international travel is a dead industry and we can’t just keep people under house arrest waiting for one. Put the money elsewhere.

  • Peter 27th Apr ’20 – 8:39pm………………I deal in facts, not delusion………….

    Did the Guardian also make up the rapid increase in CO2 levels?…CO2 levels co-incide with the temperatures over around the last 500 million years. Although CO2 is not the only driver it is the major one.

    During the Pliocene (the last time CO2 levels weree comparable to today) Global temperatures were around 3 to 4°C warmer with the poles being 11 to 16°C warmer…Fossils from 3 million years ago show the latitudal extent of tropical plants/animals…


  • John Marriott 28th Apr '20 - 11:08am

    @David Raw
    Perhaps, given where you live, I should have spelled it ‘porage’. As regards those fortunate to have been born with a silver, if not golden, spoon in their mouths, perhaps I should have included Messrs Cameron, Osborne …….and one Nicholas Peter William Clegg!

    Stay safe and keep taking the tablets!

  • Laurence Cox 28th Apr '20 - 11:21am


    Getting back to easy travel will require an effective vaccine. In the meantime, islands can take advantage of their natural borders so that if they can eliminate covid-19 locally as the Faroes have done through testing and contact tracing, then they can also end social distancing as long as they keep the islands closed to outsiders.

  • Dilettante Eye 28th Apr '20 - 1:00pm

    Bad News ~ The recent environmentalist clarion call is that we must eliminate fossil fuels within 12 years or face global catastrophe.

    Good News ~ As a result of this virus it looks like we’ve pretty much? achieved that global fossil fuel elimination in about 12 weeks.

    So can someone with an inexplicable desire to blow the dust off their passport, and get back to burning some self-indulgent air-miles, explain the crazy logic of putting taxpayer bailout money into revving up those polluting jet engines, when we’ve saved the planet, 11 years and 40 weeks earlier than planned?

    Surely the environmentally-sane-thing would to leave those planes rotting on the ground permanently?

  • I’ve been retired 20+ years and even in my day ‘conference calls’ were widely used..

    With today’s technology I’d estimate that, if not all, most of my world business trips could have been avoided..
    If royals, superstars, etc. would travel on scheduled flights that would be another chunk out of our carbon footprint..

  • @expats “With today’s technology I’d estimate that, if not all, most of my world business trips could have been avoided..”

    The vast majority of business travel is unnecessary. A large proportion of it is to make the traveler feel important.

  • Peter Hirst 28th Apr '20 - 5:17pm

    The airline industry needs to recognise that The Liberal Democrats see it as a necessary evil. Constant downwards pressure on flights is necessary and Covid provides some leverage on this. From what I’ve read the emphasis needs to be on luxury travel with the extra space involved and freight that should be taxed heavily.

  • @expats – To be clear, I was objecting to the phrase, “climate emergency” because there is no emergency. The phrase was introduced to raise fear levels and it seems to have worked.

    There is no correlation between atmospheric CO2 and global temperature. There is evidence that atmospheric CO2 concentrations follow temperature rises (i.e. there is a time lag) because as the oceans warm, de-gassing of CO2 takes place. The gas is less soluble in warm water in line with Henry’s law. There is no evidence in paleoclimatology that the reverse happens.

    Greenhouse gas theory is correct but the the warming attributed to increased CO2 is greatly exaggerated. Science has moved on but too many vested interest groups have reasons to cling to the old dogma.

  • TCO 28th Apr ’20 – 2:46pm…………The vast majority of business travel is unnecessary. A large proportion of it is to make the traveler feel important………..

    Gosh! If that’s true I wonder why they used to send me..

  • Stewart Reddaway 29th Apr '20 - 10:07am

    Sarah Olney’s cross-party letter argues for a big increase in airlines using carbon offsetting. Two big issues with this:
    1. Airline emissions are immediate, but offset projects take time to save carbon. For example trees planted today take 50-100 years to save their full potential. Reducing GHGs is urgent.
    2. Offset projects are subject to abuse and double counting. Valid projects must cause “additional” savings that would not have occurred anyway or are involved in countries meeting their Paris commitments. Any offset projects must be strictly monitored. Apparently EasyJet pays £3/ton for offsets. I very much doubt this would stand up to strict accounting. In the first instance airline actual GHG emissions must be considered, and not “net”, after greenwash PR.

  • Peter Davies 3rd May '20 - 5:12pm

    Whether individual airlines go bust or not will not greatly affect the amount of flying done. The planes, airports and pilots will all still be there and will be snapped up by someone who still has money and an eye for a bargain. You may or may not consider this a good thing but I can see no point in bailing out those who have made an unlucky investment.

  • John Littler 27th Jun '20 - 5:20pm

    Perhaps a fair way to allow some air travel would be to issue a ration or facilitation number to people allowing 1 flight p.a., or 2 over 2 years, after which people would need to pay an additional levy, which could be used to offset some carbon emission by verifiable means, while bearing down on demand. To have much effect it would need to be applied internationally.

    £3 a tonne is hardly realistic. It won’t plant many trees and you need a lot of saplings to absorb 1 tonne of CO2. It won’t buy many low energy light bulbs for people in developing countries either. A previous supposed fix which does not determine whether the bulbs would be replacing filament types or were for additional use

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