Fears for Belfast airport jobs as easyJet confirms major cull of staff

EasyJet is set to shed a third of its workforce, which could impact on staff at its Belfast base
Gary McDonald Business Editor

DOZENS of airline staff could be axed at Belfast International Airport as part of a cull by easyJet as it struggles with a collapse in air travel caused by the virus pandemic.

The Luton-based carrier says it will shed up to 30 per cent of its workforce - around 4,500 jobs - as it reduces the size of its fleet.

EasyJet, which will launch an employee consultation process on the planned job cuts in the coming days, hasn't given a breakdown of where it will make the redundancies.

But it's highly like its Aldergrove base, where it has around 250 staff, will feel part of the pain.

EasyJet is the anchor carrier at Belfast International, where it was serving 35 different destinations before the pandemic hit.

Indeed pre-Covid the carrier operated 48 per cent of all flights to and from Northern Ireland, and 73 per cent from the International Airport.

The redundancy announcement comes just days after the airline said it would resume flying from Belfast International from June 15, with all passengers and cabin crew to wear face masks to protect against coronavirus.

Initially it will operate only on domestic routes to Birmingham, Bristol, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Gatwick, Liverpool and Newcastle.

During the lockdown period, EasyJet's fleet has been grounded and the aircraft have been maintained in a flight-ready condition to enable the airline to resume flights quickly at the right time.

No-one from the company or the airport was available to comment on exactly how many jobs may go at Belfast.

Other airlines, including Ryanair and BA, have already announced job cuts and restructuring programmes as they fight to stay in business.

EasyJet's chief executive Johan Lundgren said: "We realise these are very difficult times and we are having to consider very difficult decisions which will impact our people, but we want to protect as many jobs as we can for the long term.

"We remain focused on doing what is right for the company and its long-term health and success, following the swift action we have taken over the last three months to meet the challenges of the virus.

"Although we will restart flying on June 15, we expect demand to build slowly, only returning to 2019 levels in about three years' time.

"Against this backdrop, we are planning to reduce the size of our fleet and to optimise the network and our bases."

EasyJet announced that by the end of next year it expects to have reduced its fleet size by around 51 aircraft to approximately 302.

This will be achieved through measures such as deferring new aircraft arrivals.

Bookings for winter are "well ahead of the equivalent point last year", partly due to some customers rebooking flights which were cancelled due to the pandemic.

Airline union Balpa described the move as "a real kick in the teeth".

Official Brian Strutton said: "EasyJet staff will be shocked at the scale of this announcement, having got a good news message from bosses two days ago, with no mention of job losses.

"Those staff have taken pay cuts to keep the airline afloat and this is the treatment they get in return. EasyJet has not discussed its plans with Balpa, so we will wait and see what impact there will be in the UK."

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