Wales: Coronavirus: Airports ‘at risk’ of closure as flights drop 90%

Some airports are “at risk” of closure because of the loss of business in the coronavirus pandemic, experts have warned.

Nine out of 10 flights have been grounded since the UK went into lockdown.

Airports said cargo flights were running and shareholders were being supportive as they worked to cut costs.

Flight tracking website Flightradar24 recorded 711 departures from the UK’s 10 biggest airports last week.

This compares with 7,865 in the week up to the UK’s lockdown.

Could airports close?

Independent aviation analyst Martin Evans said there was a “risk” some airports would fold.

“Regional airports, just before the lockdown, were hit by the administration of Flybe,” he said. “So they had already lost a substantial amount of income.

“Now is the start of the period when they should be getting maximum revenue. If things return to normal by winter, that’s the point they are at their quietest.

“There is a risk that we could see airports close. That could mean an airport company folds but that the buildings and facilities are still there and someone else would take over, but there is a risk at the moment.”

He said airports would still have to cover fixed costs – ranging from management to air traffic control – whether there were flights or not.

Julian Bray, an aviation expert and broadcaster, said some grounded aircraft may “never return to the skies”.

He said systems would need to be thoroughly serviced before they could fly again.

And he added: “We will see some smaller airports go to the wall unless a rescue deal can be arranged.”

Mr Bray said he expected passenger numbers to be low even when restrictions are lifted as people choose not to travel.

“Some are getting one or two departures a day, but it is pretty bleak at the moment.”

EasyJet said it expected a pre-tax loss of between £185m and £205m for the six months to March 31, although this would mark an improvement after a £275m loss in the same period a year earlier.

It has said it is likely to keep its middle seats empty once flights resume to maintain social distancing triggered by the pandemic.