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.