Heathrow’s CEO John Holland-Kaye has hit out the government’s lack of support for the aviation industry during the Coronavirus pandemic, which he believes has cost hundreds of thousands of jobs.

Speaking at the West London Blue Skies Conference – reimagining our global hub – John Holland-Kaye criticised the government’s ‘lack of economic focus’ which he said was harming the UK’s long-term trade position.

“I have avoided criticising the government during recent months because it is a difficult time but the lack of focus on the economy and on the key element of trade, such as opening up airports, is impacting on jobs,” he said. “It is tragic to see hundreds of thousands of jobs being lost in UK, many of which could have been saved.”

John Holland-Kaye said the government was treating aviation as an individual sector, rather than seeing it as an enabler of all economic sectors because of the role it plays in trade.

He told the conference that the airport’s passenger flights usually carry goods around the world –delivering around 40% of the UK’s inbound and outbound supply chain – and while they were effectively shut down, the UK economy is at a standstill. He said it was important that testing at airports was introduced as quickly as possible to help kickstart the economy.

“I don’t want to see a single person lose their job if there is something I can do to help. We have to fight for our place in the world,  fight for every job in the area,  and this is a wake-up call for all of us to build a stronger West London and Thames Valley.”

John Holland-Kaye compared the lack of support for the aviation industry in the UK with the support other airports and airlines had received in the US, France and Germany, saying it was behind even Tesco’s and Sainsbury’s in the support it had received in the UK.

“One of things that frustrates me most is that although aviation has been affected very severely, there has been almost no help with business rates, unlike Tesco and Sainsbury’s who have been let off rates. As a consequence we are really having to tighten belts hard. We are applying for relief, but  it will come out of Hillingdon Council’s annual budget and is that’s not fair – it doesn’t  happen like that for Sainsbury’s’ and Tesco’s, but because of the way the government has done it, it will impact on local communities which is the last thing anyone wants.”

John Holland-Kaye also pleaded for expansion as a route out of the pandemic and into growth, saying the importance of having a big international aviation hub was critical for the UK’s future.

“Expansion is critical for UK in any event – we, need to compete with France and Germany and we need to chart a path for the UK which will see us as having a confident path to remain a global trading nation for generations to come,” he said.

“The airport opens up the entire world to all of the UK but the world is changing, and we are very poorly served in comparison to India, China and the US. Unless we develop long haul to those countries we will be increasingly marginalised. We will be flying through Paris to get to global markets.”

Speaking in an interview with BBC journalist Christian Fraser, John Holland-Kaye said the UK had an opportunity to be a leader in sustainable aviation.

“We were the first country to commit to net zero, and I am excited by COP26. We have been building a coalition of the the willing internationally among airlines, airports and oil companies and pretty much all the airports are signed up and committed to net zero by 2050. This is something I could not have imagined just 18 months ago and we are trying to get a global agreement on decarbonisation by COP26.

“We need a lead that other people can buy into and that is where the plan to move to sustainable aviation fuels is viable because it can be delivered by 2050. It wasn’t being focused on two years ago but it is already built into UK plans and we have investors coming in, wanting to put money into sustainable fuel. The future is coming fast and now is the time to push”.

John Holland-Kaye also said he was passionate about supporting the area’s skills agenda.

“We are very focused on the local community and how we can replace some of the jobs that have been lost through the devastation that covid-19 has caused the aviation sector and how we can work together to rebuild communities,” he said.

“I am very conscious as the biggest single local employer, we have responsibilities to local communities. It is a complex relationship – Heathrow is a catalyst  for people coming to live here because of the great jobs, great communities ,opportunities for schools, but there are areas where that is the case and areas where it is not and that is what I want to work on,I  want to make the area around Heathrow one best places to live and work in the UK.”

He asked for more flexibility around apprenticeships so the airport could support more people into career paths and supported the idea of an Aviation Tech Park and/or a Green Innovation Zone.

On Friday 20th November, over 250 business leaders, local authorities, academics and politicians are meeting at the West London Business Blue Skies conference Reimagining our global hub to debate the future of aviation and transportation as part of a response to the economic impact that COVID-19 has had on the aviation sector.

Ambitious and far-sighted plans, reimagining the Heathrow area as a global hub for innovation and a green economy powerhouse, will be discussed at the event which will bring together local, national and global leaders to discuss their vision to reinvigorate the economy, drive sustainable green growth and create new jobs.

The event has been brought together by Seema Malhotra MP, Member of Parliament for Feltham and Heston and Andrew Dakers, Chief Executive of West London Business who have co-chaired the Conference Steering Committee as part of efforts to see a recovery plan for aviation communities across the UK and the world.

Heathrow Airport is the UK’s largest port by value – and one of the busiest airports in the world, connecting London – a global city at the forefront of finance, technological and industrial innovation – to more than 180 destinations across the world. The conference will mark the beginning of ambitious plans to stimulate new job opportunities in West London.

Speakers include Aviation Minister Robert Courts MP,  Katy Racina (CBI), Professor Julia Buckingham CBE (VC, Brunel University and President of Universities UK), Lord David Blunkett, Sheldon Hee of Singapore Airlines,  John Holland-Kaye, Heathrow Airport CEO, Diana Holland (Assistant General Secretary, UNITE), Rt Hon Kwasi Kwarteng MP, Minister for Business, Energy and Clean Growth, Paul Everitt, CEO, ADS Group, Professor Michael Kleeman from UC San Diego and Leonie Cooper AM, Chair of London Assembly Economy Committee.

The inaugural Blue Skies Conference 2020, Reimagining our Global Hub, takes place between 2pm and 6pm on Friday 20 November. This is a free-to-attend conference. Book your place here.

Seema Malhotra MP who will be opening the conference said: “This conference comes at a critical time for the UK.

“We have seen many people furloughed or made redundant as a result of COVID-19 and witnessed the devastating impact it has had on Heathrow, the surrounding area and the sectors that support the aviation industry.

“On 20 November, we will look to a brighter future. With global leaders in the aviation world joining local leaders, we will begin to draw up an ambitious and far sighted blueprint for the future of aviation. This is about individuals, our community and our shared future.”

Andrew Dakers, Chief Executive of West London Business, said: “This conference will be the start of something really special for an area, sector and community so badly devastated by the pandemic – a longer term plan for how we bring our businesses and supply chains together for new thinking about how we grow our economy sustainably for future generations”.

“I would urge people to get involved in the day and play a part in developing a brighter future and see our global hub change the world.”

For more information on the conference agenda or to register for your free place, visit www.londonwestinnovation.global