Richard W. Symonds


Gatwick Airport

Airport begins consultation that could result in losing about a quarter of its workforce

Gatwick airport is planning to cut 600 jobs, about a quarter of its workforce, as it struggles to cut costs amid the pandemic’s continuing impact on international travel.

The airport is beginning a consultation process with affected employees from all areas of the business, as part of a wider restructuring plan.

Passenger numbers were 80% lower at Britain’s second-busiest air hub during August compared with a year earlier, in what would ordinarily be one of its busiest months of the year.

Flights are only operating from one of its two terminals, because of what the airport called the “devastating impact” of Covid-19 on aviation and the travel industry.

Three-quarters of its staff remain on furlough but the support available to employers through the government’s coronavirus job retention scheme is set to end in October.

The company said it was planning an organisational restructure that would allow it to respond quickly when demand for travel returns in future.

Stewart Wingate, Gatwick airport’s chief executive, said it would try to preserve as many jobs as possible.

“If anyone is in any doubt about the devastating impact Covid-19 has had on the aviation and travel industry then today’s news we have shared with our staff, regarding the proposed job losses, is a stark reminder,” Wingate said.

“We are in ongoing talks with government to see what sector specific support can be put in place for the industry at this time, alongside mechanisms which will give our passengers greater certainty on where and when they can safely travel abroad. This support will not only help Gatwick but the wider regional economy which relies on the airport.”

Gatwick said it had rapidly taken action to preserve jobs and protect the airport in March as international travel ground to a halt, by reducing its costs, managing its outgoings and securing a £300m bank loan.

But it lost one of its key airlines in May when Virgin Atlantic announced that it would stop flying from the airport, while British Airways has made heavy cuts to its operations at Gatwick including making hundreds of staff based at the airport redundant.

The trade union Unite has accused British Airways of disproportionately affecting its black, Asian and ethnic minority (BAME) staff based at Gatwick through its redundancy programme.

Unite found that 41% of flying staff who identified as white had been made redundant or demoted, compared with 61% of BAME workers in those roles who responded to the survey.

In addition, it found that BA no longer had any black onboard customer service managers at Gatwick, after several staff members were made redundant and one was demoted.

British Airways said its restructuring had been a “difficult and painful process” and it remained committed to improving diversity.

“Our selection criteria are fair and non-discriminatory, focusing on performance, attendance and skills,” BA said in a statement. “We consulted fully with Unite on these criteria. Ethnicity was not a factor in our selection process as this would be both discriminatory against other groups and unlawful.”