North-east MSP Liam Kerr has pressed the Scottish Government to come up with an initiative to safeguard jobs after Tui announced it was to axe more than half of its city flights.
The UK’s largest holiday provider confirmed last month it will reduce its summer programme from Aberdeen this year due to the “continued lack of clarity” surrounding travel.
Aberdeen Airport said job losses are “inevitable” unless action is taken to help get the industry back on its feet, following a year of very limited travel.
Speaking during portfolio questions in the Scottish Parliament, Conservative MSP Liam Kerr asked Tourism Secretary Fergus Ewing what action the Scottish Government will take to support the tourism sector in response to Tui’s announcement.
He also questioned Mr Ewing on whether this would include a “north-east and industry specific recovery plan”.
In response, the Cabinet Secretary said: “Tui’s decison to reduce flights to Aberdeen Airport as reported last month, impacts on the outbound market and Scottish tourists travelling abroad rather than the domestic market.
“Nevertheless we recognise the impact this will have on travel agents and airport employees and will continue to look at what support can be made available.”
However, Mr Ewing said the Scottish Government has to maintain restrictions on travel to “manage the risk of importation of the virus from areas of high prevalence”.
He said: “Have we not heard the risks of importing the virus? We can’t discount or ignore these risks.”
‘Complete slap in the face’
Mr Kerr described Mr Ewing’s response as “shameful” and a “complete slap in the face to Aberdeen International Airport which is battling on a daily basis to safeguard these routes”.
He added: “He seems to think Tui’s announcement isn’t a big issue because it affects outbound travel which is completely wrong.
“As each month passes, Aberdeen Airport is being left further and further down the runway.
“No concrete recovery plan has been issued and the airport have repeatedly voiced concerns over the lack of communication from the SNP Government.
“I will continue to do everything I can to ensure Aberdeen gets its fair share and isn’t forgotten about during such challenging times.”
Tui’s announcement last month followed the publication of the Scottish Government’s roadmap out of lockdown which did not provide any specific details on when and how international travel would be allowed to resume as normal.
The travel operator decided to reduce its flights to Aberdeen Airport from 10 to four each week during the summer.
The company will continue to take customers on summer holidays from the city to Dalaman, Corfu and Palma, but will no longer have an Aberdeen-based aircraft.
Speaking last month, Derek Provan, chief executive of AGS Airports, said “further job losses will be inevitable unless government works with industry to develop a recovery plan”.
He added: “We urgently need an exit plan that sets out how we can work towards the safe restart of international travel.”
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said in his roadmap that international trips could potentially resume from May 17, if there was no resurgence in coronavirus and vaccination programmes went well.
The UK Government’s Global Travel Taskforce will reconvene to issue a report by April 12 recommending how international trips can resume safely.
Airlines and travel companies – including EasyJet, Ryanair, Tui and Thomas Cook – have since reported a surge in holiday bookings to a range of summer destinations.