(Updates with government announcement of support)
By David Milliken
LONDON, Jan 16 (Reuters) - Britain's government said on
Saturday it would give financial aid to airports before the end
of March, after the industry called for urgent support as
tighter COVID-19 rules for international travellers start on
Aviation minister Robert Courts said the government would
launch a new support program this month.
"The Airport and Ground Operations Support Scheme will help
airports reduce their costs and we will be aiming to provide
grants before the end of this financial year," he announced on
social media, adding that more details would follow soon.
From 0400 GMT on Monday, all travellers to Britain must have
a recent negative COVID-19 test and be prepared to quarantine at
home for 10 days on arrival.
Britain's current lockdowns ban most international travel,
meaning that airline schedules are currently minimal. But the
withdrawal of any quarantine-free travel will be a further blow
for the industry.
The latest restrictions were prompted in part by a third
wave of the disease that has caused record daily death tolls in
Britain, as well as concern about a new coronavirus variant
discovered in Brazil.
London's second-largest airport, Gatwick, said the support
would help preserve jobs at a time when it had suffered a large
reduction in passenger numbers.
Karen Dee, chief executive of Britain's Airport Operators
Association, said before the announcement that the government
needed to go beyond existing support that includes a temporary
exemption from local property taxes.
Relief from regulatory, policing and air traffic control
costs would help, she added.
Courts did not mention any support for airlines, which have
benefited from general government furlough programmes but have
received little direct assistance.
Tim Alderslade, chief executive of industry body Airlines
UK, called for plans to relax travel rules by Easter, before
the peak spring and summer holiday period.
"Airlines have been staying in business by taking on
billions of pounds of debt which will need to be paid back," he
(Reporting by David Milliken;
Editing by Frances Kerry and Dan Grebler)