Passenger numbers at region's airports hit hard by coronavirus pandemic

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The CEO of Luton Airport has warned that the livelihoods of "thousands of people" could be under threat without additional government support for the aviation sector.

The airport had 75% fewer passengers in June, July and August compared to the same period in 2019.

August did show signs of recovery, with numbers down 56% compared the previous year. The month saw 820,000 pass through the airport's doors, down from 1.7m.

Meanwhile at Stansted Airport, the number of travellers dropped nearly 70% in August.

Passengers arriving at Luton airport. Credit: ITV Anglia

Alberto Martin, CEO of the London Luton Airport (LLA), called for extra financial support from the government.

He said: "While I'm pleased to have welcomed more passengers during August, it's a long way from our normal busy holiday period.

"With summer drawing to a close, and with quarantine measures continuing to be imposed, urgent Government support for the sector will be vital to ensure that the crisis of the aviation sector does not worsen and the livelihoods of the thousands of people who rely on it are not jeopardised."

Luton and Stansted joined 18 other UK airports to write to the Prime Minister earlier this month, highlighting the "catastrophic job losses" that could arise when the furlough scheme finishes at the end of October.

Calls to extend the furlough scheme have also been backed by some of the region's MPs.

Speaking on Anglia Late Edition, Sir Bernard Jenkin, MP for Harwich and North Essex, said: "I think there is a case for extending furlough where it is clearly supporting industry industries that should become viable again in the short to medium term industry and aviation could be an example of that."

On the same programme Sarah Owen, MP for Luton North, said there was a "need for sector specific support package for aviation, not just for the industry but the towns that surround airports in particular."

Air cargo on the rise

While passenger numbers are down, Stansted Airport has reported an increase in the amount of freight it is handling.

The volume of cargo passing through the airport increased by 43.6% and 25% in July and August respectively, compared with the same months in 2019.

The amount being handled is higher than what Stansted would usually see in the weeks leading up to Christmas, usually the busiest time of the year for air freight.

New freight-only have been operating between Stansted and the USA Credit: MAG

Aboudy Nasser, Group Aviation Director for Manchester Airports Group (MAG), which owns Stansted, said they were expecting demand to continue growing.

"Behind the scenes our airports have been leading the charge in helping the logistics sector adapt to rising demand for dedicated air cargo and changes in the way goods are transported," he said.

"This underlines the vital role MAG airports play in supporting the UK economy as it gets back on its feet, and the critical role of air cargo in moving essential products quickly across the globe.

"We look forward to continuing our work with this important sector as it prepares itself for ever-increasing demand in the months ahead."

The increase has been welcomed by Essex Chambers of Commerce.

Chief Executive Denise Rossiter said: "These figures show [Stansted's] importance for exporters and importers too and how it is increasingly a major contributor to not just the Essex economy but that of the UK generally and why it is so important to businesses in Essex."