Regional airports impacted by Air Canada cuts

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As a result of continuing weak demand for both business and leisure travel and government-imposed travel restrictions due to COVID-19 Air Canada is indefinitely suspending services on 30 domestic regional routes and closing eight stations at regional airports across Canada.

Airports that will be affected by the closure of Air Canada’s stations include: Bathurst in New Brunswick, Wabush in Newfoundland and Labrador, Gaspé, Baie Comeau, Mont Joli and Val d’Or (all in Quebec) and Kingston and North Bay in Ontario.

The Canadian carrier reported a net loss of $1.05 billion in the first quarter of 2020, including a net cash-burn in March of $688 million. It has adopted a range of structural changes including significant costs savings and liquidity measures. Other changes to its network and schedule and possible further service suspensions will be considered over the coming weeks.

The eight stations facing closure are managed by Jazz Aviation, which also operates 21 of Air Canada’s discontinued regional routes.

“The COVID-19 crisis and provincial and federal government-imposed travel restrictions and border closures are having a significant negative effect on passenger demand for Canadian air travel,” stated Joe Randell, President and CEO, Chorus Aviation (which owns Jazz Aviation). “I am saddened by the impact today’s announcement will have on our employees, suppliers and the affected communities, but respect and understand the difficult choice our partner, Air Canada, has had to make.”

easyJet to close three UK bases

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Around 2,000 UK-based easyJet staff are set to be laid off as the low-cost carrier moves to close its bases at Stansted, Southend and Newcastle airports in the UK.

The airline has seven aircraft based at Stansted, with 335 crew. At Southend it has four aircraft and 183 crew and in Newcastle it has three aircraft and 157 crew.

The airline announced in May that it would be cutting 4,500 jobs across Europe, a 30% reduction in its workforce, as a result of travel restrictions and decreased passenger demand due to COVID-19. Around a third of easyJet’s job losses are expected to come at the three UK bases with up to 727 pilot jobs and up to 1,200 cabin crew jobs across the UK at risk.

In a statement Newcastle Airport said it was “saddened to hear of possible job losses and the significant impact this would cause.”

“This is very disappointing for the airport, airline and the North East as a whole and we sympathise with everyone affected by this announcement.”

Commenting on the closure of the bases and the subsequent job cuts, John Lundgren, easyJet’s CEO said, “These are very difficult proposals to put forward in what is an unprecedented and difficult time for the airline and the industry as a whole.” He added, “Unfortunately, the lower-demand environment means we need fewer aircraft and have less opportunity for work for our people.”

Some flights are expected to continue in and out of Newcastle and Stansted, operated by planes and crew based elsewhere, but there is less certainty for Southend, where easyJet is a key airline customer.

Balpa, the pilots’ union described the layoffs as “an overreaction” and that it would be “fighting to save every single job.” Brian Strutton, Balpa’s General Secretary, said the UK’s aviation industry is “caught in a death spiral of despair,” and has called on the UK Government to step in and help.

Meanwhile, Unite, the union representing cabin crew and other aviation workers, said the closure of three easyJet bases and job cuts were another massive blow for the industry and highlighted the urgent need for government support. Oliver Richardson, Unite’s National Officer for Civil Aviation, said the airline had its priorities all wrong. “It has paid a multi-million dividend to its shareholders, borrowed hundreds of millions from the government to buy new aircraft, and has fully utilised the job retention scheme. It absolutely should not be allowed to make huge redundancies a few weeks later.”

Richardson also underlined that the government’s ongoing failure to provide the support promised by the chancellor to support UK aviation is “threatening the viability of airlines and airports alike.”

The news from easyJet comes hot on the heels of aircraft manufactuer Airbus’ announcement on Tuesday that it is to cut 15,000 jobs as a result of a dip in aircraft orders. The job losses at easyJet will is also cause for concern for other regional airports. Birmingham Airport announced on Tuesday that it would be laying off up to 250 people, more than a quarter of directly employed staff, due to the coronavirus downturn. Last week Swissport announced that it was halving its UK workforce and it had already begun the process of making 500 staff redundant at its Midlands hub.


Australia’s regional airports share $41.2m for upgrades

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Bendigo Airport (pictured) is among some 60 regional airports in Australia to benefit from £41.2 million in funding for upgrades under a new federal government initiative.

Upgrades range from taxiway and runway resurfacing projects to fencing upgrades, lighting works and drainage solutions. The grants are part of a larger $100 million package announced during last year’s budget, but which now take on increased importance as the global aviation industry recovers from the coronavirus pandemic. This funding is also in addition to the federal government’s more than $1.2 billion support package for Australia’s aviation industry during the current crisis.

Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack, who is also the Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development, said the funding would assist regional airport owners to undertake essential works, promoting aviation safety and access for regional Australians.

“For our regional communities, the local airport is an essential link to the rest of Australia,” McCormack said in a statement.

“The government is investing in regional airports because we know this infrastructure is key to securing our regional aviation network now and into the post-COVID future.”

Bendigo Airport is tor receive $465,000 for RPT apron expansion and strengthening and run-up area development. Other airports to benefit include Ballarat, which is receiving a $5 million runway upgrade and Merimbula, which will see a $4.5 million runway upgrade.

Labor’s transport spokewoman Catherine King warned that while all funding is welcome regional airports in Australia have been hit hard by coronavirus and more funding will be required for the industry to recover from the COVID crisis. She pointed out that, “With many regional airports being council-owned, they have been ineligible fro JobKeeper support and have been forced to lay off highly skilled staff.”

Wizz Air extends services with two new bases in Larnaca and Milan

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Wizz Air is expanding its operations opening two new bases at Larnaca in Cyprus and Milan Malpensa in Italy from July. The Hungarian low-cost carrier has also announced additional routes from London Luton Airport.

The airline plans to base five Airbus A320 aircraft at Milan Malpensa which will serve 20 new routes includeing Athens, Corfu, Eindhoven, Fuerteventura, Gran Canaria, Lisbon, London Luton, Menorca, Marrakesh, Porto, Pristina, Reykjavik – Keflavik, Rhodes, Santorini, Tallinn, Tel Aviv, Tenerife, Thessaloniki, Valencia, Zakynthos.

The carrier has also announced 10 new routes from its new base at Larnaca where it will base two Airbus A32- aircraft. These include: Athens, Billund, Copenhagen, Dortmund, Karlsuhe/ Baden-Baden, Memmingen, Suceava, Thessaloniki, Turku and Wroclaw.

Commenting on the new services from the Cypriot hub  in a statement on Linked in, Andys Frangos, Senior Manager Operations at Larnaca, said: “Great news, coming exactly at the time when the focus is on the post Covid-19 reactivation plan for the airport… Looking forward to welcoming more passengers to our beautiful island.”

Meanwhile a statement from Wizz Air read: “Once a game changer, always a game changer. While legacy airlines are being bailed out by governments all over Europe, we are happy to announced our new bases in Milan Malpensa and Larnaca.”