Our message to the UK Government could not be clearer or more urgent. Support and immediate action is needed now to maintain the UK’s cargo (and passenger) airport handling capability to ensure cargo supply lines can continue to operate at this time of national and international crisis, and for cargo and passenger airport handling services to be resilient and sustainable after the Covid-19 crisis has passed.

The ground and cargo airport handling industry has shown its resilience through many crises over the past 20 years, but the global impact of Covid-19 is unprecedented in its global reach, scale and longevity, and means that there is now a real risk of its imminent collapse.

Airlines have either grounded their fleets or countries have closed their borders. In our low-margin industry sector, this has resulted in a catastrophic drop in business volume and revenue. As most of our costs relate to people, without immediate Government support, our only options will be to make significant redundancies and to closedown operations.

This is a situation we are anxious to avoid but, amidst all this uncertainty, we cannot continue to play the vital role we do in the nation’s economy and wellbeing without Government help. Without this immediate support, even when Covid-19 is defeated, UK trade will continue to suffer long-term disruption because a major part of the supply chain infrastructure at UK airports needed to fuel the country’s recovery will have been shut down - and this will take many months to re-establish. 

90% of all air cargo and passenger handling at UK airports is provided by the four main ground and cargo handling companies – of which WFS is one of the largest providers of cargo handling. This includes the critical supply chains for the pharmaceutical and healthcare industries as well as the millions of tonnes of other goods for consumers and businesses that are so essential to the British economy. This will simply grind to a halt. We must stop this from happening. The importance of our industry to the Covid-19 response and the country’s subsequent economic recovery must not be under-estimated.

The practical financial measures we are asking the Government to agree will help us bridge the gap of drastically reduced revenues until normality is restored to the market, and to retain staff to support the full resumption of operations in the best interests of the country and British industry. 

Retaining as many highly trained and accredited employees as possible is essential to maintain the very highest levels of aviation safety and security, and to keep in place the essential trade infrastructure which will be needed to re-energise the British economy. Otherwise, once the crisis has passed and there is an expectation of returning to normality, we can’t make the assumption that the ground and cargo handling companies will be able to immediately restart.  We will face many additional months of recovery while we re-hire, train and certify staff to meet our strict industry requirements, and this will significantly slow the UK resurgence.

For the good of the UK economy, British businesses and consumers, we need the Government to act now to ensure the vital services our industry provides survive this unprecedented moment in history.

Craig Smyth, CEO of WFS
Craig Smyth, CEO of WFS