Heathrow launches voluntary redundancy scheme as traffic disappears

Heathrow airport is seeking voluntary redundancies as it braces for a prolonged decline in passenger traffic after a 97 per cent drop in May.

John Holland-Kaye, chief executive, said efforts to protect jobs are “no longer sustainable” as restrictions continue to paralyse what was Europe’s busiest airport before the lockdown.

He warned that the company, which directly employs about 7,000 staff, could not rule out further job losses after agreeing the voluntary programme with trade union leaders.

Travel restrictions have sent Heathrow’s passenger levels to record lows and shut one of its two runways in April.

“Throughout this crisis we have tried to protect frontline jobs but this is no longer sustainable, and we have now agreed a voluntary severance scheme with our union partners,” Mr Holland-Kaye, 55, said.

“While we cannot rule out further job reductions, we will continue to explore options to minimise the number of job losses.”

Only 228,000 passengers used the airport in May — down 97 per cent on the same month last year. Monday’s introduction of a requirement for arrivals to isolate themselves for a fortnight is expected to continue to suppress travel.

Heathrow has called for air bridges to be established with countries where the prevalence of coronavirus is low, allowing passengers to avoid being quarantined.

Of the 76,000 staff employed by some 400 companies at the airport, Mr Holland-Kaye has previously estimated that about 25,000 are under threat. British Airways, which runs more flights in and out of Heathrow than any other airline, has already announced plans to cut as many as 12,000 roles.

Unite, the union, called on the Treasury to provide the aviation industry with a “bespoke financial support package”. Oliver Richardson, its national officer for aviation, said the government needed to “get a grip of the challenges the industry faces.”