Nearly 2,000 UK-based flight and cabin crew are set to be laid off by Easyjet as the short-haul airline also moves to close its bases at Stansted, Southend and Newcastle airports.
Easyjet said in May that it would be cutting 4,500 jobs across Europe, a 30 per cent reduction in its workforce, in response to its fears that travel restrictions and passenger demand around the pandemic will mean poor trading conditions for the next two years at least.
Of those job cuts, 727 will be UK-based pilots and another 1,300 cabin crew serving passengers in flight. It is the largest operator at Gatwick, Manchester and Luton, Britain’s second, third and fifth largest airports.
It will withdraw its seven planes from Stansted, the UK’s fourth largest airport, dominated by rival Ryanair; its four planes at Southend, a serious blow to the aspirations of the Essex airport; and its three aircraft at Newcastle, reducing choice at one of Britain’s top ten regional airports. “The lower-demand environment means we need fewer aircraft and have less opportunity for work for our people,” Johan Lundgren, Easyjet’s chief executive, said.
Unite, the aviation union, described the announcement as yet another “massive blow” for the industry. The union questioned Easyjet’s decision to make workers redundant given the company took a £600 million loan from the government and recently paid a £174 million dividend to shareholders.
Oliver Richardson, Unite national officer for civil aviation, said: “The announcement further demonstrates why it is absolutely essential that the government extends its job retention scheme for the aviation sector, which has been one of the industries worst hit by the Covid-19 pandemic.”
It has emerged that Easyjet’s founder and largest shareholder, Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou, has seen his and his family’s interests fall to below 30 per cent. The billionaire previously spoke for about a third of the airline’s shares.
That triggered the ending of a “relationship agreement”, a stock market listing scheme designed to regulate the relationship between a leading shareholder and a quoted company. It does not affect the commercial agreements under which Sir Stelios is paid royalties for the airline to use the Easyjet brand.