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GROUNDED

EasyJet to close hubs at Stansted, Southend and Newcastle airports losing 4,500 jobs

EASYJET will sack up to 4,500 staff and close hubs at Stansted, Southend and Newcastle airports in another blow to the travel industry.

The devastating announcement was made today as the airline also admitted the rest of its UK network is “under review”.

EasyJet are to sack 4,500 staff and close three of its airport hubs
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EasyJet are to sack 4,500 staff and close three of its airport hubsCredit: PinPep
Pilots union BALPA said 727 cockpit crew faced the axe - around one in three of easyJet’s 2,300 pilots in the UK.
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Pilots union BALPA said 727 cockpit crew faced the axe - around one in three of easyJet’s 2,300 pilots in the UK.Credit: PA:Press Association/PA Images

It's another bitter pill to swallow for an aviation industry that has been hammered by coronavirus with flights grounded and borders closed.

The airline will still continue to run flights to the airports, even if they no longer operate as hubs.

Pilots union BALPA said 727 cockpit crew faced the axe - around one in three of easyJet’s 2,300 pilots in the UK.

EasyJet is expected to lose between 4,500 and 5,000 jobs across its entire network - around 1,900 UK employees are due to go, including 727 pilots.

Airline bosses gave the grim news to union chiefs of pilots and crew, and devastated staff were left gobsmacked.

An easyJet spokeswoman told The Sun: “As part of our update to the market on 28 May 2020, easyJet set out that it may need to reduce staff numbers by up to 30% as well as optimise its network and bases as a result of the pandemic.

“easyJet has today started formal consultation on proposals with employee representatives including Balpa and Unite on all of its UK based pilots and crew. 

CORONAVIRUS IMPACT ON AIRLINES

  • EasyJet - Up to 5,000 jobs lost and three hubs closed
  • BA - Up to 12,000 jobs lost and losses of £20million a day
  • Ryanair - Up to 3,000 jobs lost
  • Virgin - Approx 8,000 on furlough, unable to pay annual leave

“The proposals include the potential closing of three of its bases in the UK – London Stansted, London Southend and Newcastle. These airports would remain part of easyJet’s route network."

EasyJet told how it won’t reach expected revenue levels post lockdown until 2023.

EasyJet currently has 163 aircraft in the UK at 11 airports, serving 546 routes and flying more than 52 million passengers a year.

Johan Lundgren, easyJet 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.

"We are focused on doing what is right for the company and its long term health and success so we can protect jobs going forward.

“Unfortunately the lower demand environment means we need fewer aircraft and have less opportunity for work for our people."

Unfortunately the lower demand environment means we need fewer aircraft and have less opportunity for work for our people

Johan Lundgren, easyJet CEO

Brian Strutton, pilots union Balpa general secretary, said: “We know that aviation is in the midst of the covid-19 crisis and we had been expecting easyJet to make an announcement of temporary measures to help the airline through to recovery.

 “But this seems an excessive over-reaction and easyJet won’t find a supply of pilots waiting to come back when the recovery takes place over the next two years. "

Last November, easyJet acquired Thomas Cook's slots at Gatwick and Bristol airports for £36million.

The aviation sector has been severely hit by coronavirus, with British Airways haemorrhaging £20million a day.

Bosses want to axe 12,000 staff and ‘fire and re-hire’ the remaining 36,000 staff on lower wages.

Meanwhile, The Sun understands Virgin Atlantic’s future is “bleak” as it emerged yesterday they can’t afford to pay staff for holidays.

Airline insiders admitted it is “touch and go” if Sir Richard Branson’s carrier will survive the coronavirus pandemic meltdown.

Staff were reeling last night after being told bosses will not top up monthly furlough salary payments with annual leave taken.

Virgin said: “Any annual leave you have accrued while on furlough leave is to be considered taken.”

Bosses went on: “When you return to work your remaining annual leave allowance will be your usual annual entitlement, minus any annual leave you have already taken this year, which includes annual leave accrued and taken during furlough leave.”

Rachel Clarke, head of people services at Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Holidays, told staff: “We recognise this is a different approach to the government guidance, and we understand this is a big ask

“We’re asking for your help with annual leave, because unfortunately, as we strive to safeguard the future of the business, it’s just not affordable at this time."

The airline is planning to re-start passenger flights from July 20.

Staff who get the boot from the airline after that date will receive redundancy in August on a contractural minimum of 28 days notice.

Around 8,000 Virgin workers were furloughed at the start of lockdown, with staff paid 80 per cent of their salaries up to £2,500 a month for three months. 

The scheme has been extended until October but cash-strapped Virgin has to contribute to the scheme from September.

A Virgin Atlantic spokesperson told Sun Online Travel: "Following the rapid acceleration of Covid-19 and extensive travel restrictions, coupled with a sharp drop in customer demand, it is imperative for Virgin Atlantic to take swift and decisive action to safeguard its future. 

 “Therefore, any annual leave our people have accrued while on furlough leave is to be considered taken. This equates to two days for every month of furlough leave.

"We’d like to thank all our people for their continued commitment and solidarity and the sacrifices they have made to support the company during the most challenging period in our history”.

In terms of a battle for survival, the airline added: “We continue to explore all available options to secure additional external funding as part of a comprehensive, solvent recapitalisation of the airline. As per the Chancellor’s letter of 24 March, HM Government is considered as a lender of last resort, and rightly so. 

“We greatly appreciate the support our stakeholders have shown to date and believe we can deliver a comprehensive financing package that ensures Virgin Atlantic continues to provide essential connectivity and competition to consumers and businesses in Britain and beyond.”

The airline has warned that they won't reach normal levels of travel until at least 2023
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The airline has warned that they won't reach normal levels of travel until at least 2023Credit: PinPep
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