Union accuses Easyjet of ‘excessive over-reaction’

Union accuses Easyjet of ‘excessive over-reaction’ and urges government to step in to stop aviation’s ‘death spiral of despair’ as airline plans to sack up to 4,500 staff and close bases at Stansted, Southend and Newcastle

  • BALPA union has accused airline EasyJet of ‘excessive over-reaction’ today 
  • Luton-based carrier to close hubs at Stansted, Southend and Newcastle airports
  • Airline announced last month it was reducing its workforce by up to 30 per cent
  • British Airways cutting 12,000 staff, Virgin and Ryanair to let go of around 3,000

An aviation union has accused EasyJet of ‘excessive over-reaction’ after the airline today revealed up to 4,500 staff will lose their jobs.

The British Airline Pilots’ Association (BALPA) has urged the Government to step in to stop the aviation industry’s ‘death spiral of despair’.

It comes as the budget carrier proposes to sack 1,900 UK employees and close bases at London‘s Stansted and Southend airports and at Newcastle. 

BALPA tweeted today: ‘We are shocked at the size of potential pilot job losses in easyJet which equate to nearly 1-in-3 of easyJet pilots in the UK: 727 pilots.

‘easyJet paid £174m out to shareholders, got agreements to furlough staff to protect cash, got £600m from the Government, has boasted of having £2.4bn in liquidity, and ticket sales are going through the roof so fast they cannot get pilots back off furlough quickly enough.

‘So this seems an excessive over-reaction. It doesn’t add up. We are meeting easyJet today and we will be fighting to save every single job.

‘This is more evidence that aviation in the UK is caught in a death spiral of despair and individual airlines are flailing around without direction. Govt should step in, provide a strategy and back a moratorium on job losses’. 

The British Airline Pilots' Association (BALPA) has accused EasyJet of 'excessive over-reaction' after the airline today revealed up to 4,500 staff will lose its jobs

The British Airline Pilots’ Association (BALPA) has accused EasyJet of ‘excessive over-reaction’ after the airline today revealed up to 4,500 staff will lose its jobs

EasyJet chief executive Johan Lundgren (pictured at Gatwick on June 15) said the proposals were 'difficult to put forward in what is an unprecedented and difficult time'

EasyJet chief executive Johan Lundgren (pictured at Gatwick on June 15) said the proposals were ‘difficult to put forward in what is an unprecedented and difficult time’

EasyJet is expected to lose up to 4,500 jobs across its entire network including around 1,900 UK employees.

Some 727 of its UK-based pilots are at risk of redundancy, equivalent to about one-third of its pilots in the country. 

The airline announced last month it was reducing its workforce by up to 30 per cent, warning it needed to cut 4,500 jobs to stay competitive after coronavirus caused a travel market slump.

At the start of this month easyJet raised £419million of cash to help it see through the pandemic. It has also taken a £600million Government loan.

The beleaguered Luton-based carrier becomes the latest domino to fall in the aviation industry, which has suffered massive losses in the wake of the pandemic. 

British Airways is cutting up to 12,000 staff, and Virgin Atlantic and Ryanair will each let go of around 3,000. 

The airline’s founder Sir Stelios told MailOnline the job and base cuts were ‘another dismal twist to this sad story’ of the airline’s financial struggles. 

EasyJet aircraft pictured at London Southend Airport in Essex today

EasyJet aircraft pictured at London Southend Airport in Essex today

The airline said the proposals are to close the bases at the end of August so customers booked to fly from the airport over the summer, ‘will not be affected as a result of this.’

If a base is closed, customers will be contacted and if their flights are cancelled they will be able to transfer to an alternative flight free of charge, receive a voucher or apply for a refund. 

How coronavirus has affected UK airlines and travel operators 

Flybe: Europe’s largest regional airline collapsed on March 5 after months on the brink, triggering 2,400 job losses and left around 15,000 passengers stranded across the UK and Europe. 

British Airways: The International Airlines Group, which also includes Iberia and Aer Lingus, said on March 16 that there would be a 75 per cent reduction in passenger capacity for two months, with boss Willie Walsh admitting there was ‘no guarantee that many European airlines would survive’. The company has since said it wants to reduce the number of staff by 12,000. 

Loganair: The Scottish regional airline said on March 30 that it expects to ask the Government for a bailout to cope with the impact of the pandemic. 

Jet2: The budget holiday airline has suspended all of its flights departing from Britain until April 30. A number of Jet2 flights turned around mid-air last month while travelling to Spain when a lockdown was announced in the country.

Virgin Atlantic: The airline said on March 16 that it would have reduced its lights by 80 per cent by March 26, and this will go up to 85 per cent by April. It has also urged the Government to offer carriers emergency credit facilities worth up to £7.5billion.

Ryanair: More than 90 per cent of the Irish-based airline’s planes are now grounded, with the rest of the aircraft providing repatriation and rescue flights. Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary said his airline would be forced to shed 3,000 jobs while seeking pay reductions of up to 20 per cent by those who remain. 

TUI: Holiday giant Tui is looking to cut up to 8,000 roles worldwide with the firm calling Covid-19 the ‘greatest crisis’ the industry has faced.

The UK’s biggest tour operator posted losses of 845.8 million euro (£747m) in the first half of 2020, compared to 289.1 million (£255m) in the same period 12 months previously. 

It added that losses also came as a result of the grounding of the Boeing 737 Max aircraft after two crashes with other airlines.

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EasyJet said customers have the option to transfer to another flight from another airport, without a change fee, up to 14 days ahead of departure. 

A spokesman added: ‘These airports remain important network points for us and we will still continue to serve them as destinations as part of our wider network.’

EasyJet last month announced swingeing job cuts as it said it did not expect demand to return to 2019 passenger levels until 2023. 

Today, it began consultation on proposals with employee representatives including BALPA and UNITE on all of its UK based pilots and crew. 

The proposals include the potential closing of three of its bases in the UK – London Stansted, London Southend and Newcastle. EasyJet said these airports would remain part its route network. 

Chief executive Johan Lundgren said today: ‘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 – we are committed to working constructively with our employee representatives across the network with the aim of minimising job losses as far as possible.

‘These proposals are no reflection on our people at Stansted, Southend and Newcastle, who have all worked tirelessly and have been fully committed to providing great service for our customers.’

A spokesman for BALPA said it was ‘shocked’ by the scale of the job cuts and ‘excessive over-reaction.’ 

Balpa general secretary Brian Strutton said: ‘We know that aviation is in the midst of the Covid 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.’

Sir Stelios is locked in a bitter row over a £4.5bn order with Airbus for new planes – which he has warned could bankrupt the company – and he is also trying to shake up the board, who he branded ‘scoundrels’.

He said: ‘How can they sleep easily at night after sending shareholders’ money to Airbus to buy more and more aircraft and at the same time cutting back on 30 per cent of their staff. That simply proves they are more interested in creating wealth for Airbus than anyone else.

Passengers board a Ryanair aircraft at Marrakesh Airport in Morocco (file picture). Ryanair is letting go of around 3,000 staff

Passengers board a Ryanair aircraft at Marrakesh Airport in Morocco (file picture). Ryanair is letting go of around 3,000 staff

A quiet Terminal Five at London Heathrow Airport on March 14, shortly before the lockdown. British Airways is cutting up to 12,000 staff

A quiet Terminal Five at London Heathrow Airport on March 14, shortly before the lockdown. British Airways is cutting up to 12,000 staff

Passengers arrive on a Tui Airways flight at Kos International Airport in Greece yesterday. Tui is looking to cut up to 8,000 roles worldwide

Passengers arrive on a Tui Airways flight at Kos International Airport in Greece yesterday. Tui is looking to cut up to 8,000 roles worldwide

‘I really hope that some of the staff made redundant may have seen some evidence of wrong doing and come forward – remember I have offered a £5m bounty for useful whistleblower information’.

Heathrow Airport warns of further jobs cuts as it launches voluntary redundancy scheme 

Heathrow Airport this month launched a voluntary redundancy scheme as it warned it cannot rule out further job cuts.

The company, which has around 7,000 directly employed staff, said it had agreed the scheme with unions as it battles to recover from the coronavirus crisis.

It has already cut a third of its managerial roles. 

British Airways, which operates the most flights to and from the airport, has previously announced a plan to cut up to 12,000 jobs.

A total of 76,000 people are employed across 400 different companies at Heathrow. 

Just 228,000 passengers travelled through the airport in May, down 97 per cent on the same month last year.

Airlines have grounded the majority of their aircraft because of the collapse in demand and travel restrictions due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Year-on-year demand across the first five months of 2020 is now down 44 per cent.  

easyJet said in a regulatory filing on Tuesday that the Haji-Ioannou family now hold under 30% of the company.

Stelios Haji-Ioannou founded easyJet, and along with family members remains its biggest shareholder, but he has been critical of its strategy. 

Earlier this year he sought to oust its CEO, chairman and others as he objected to their handling of the coronavirus pandemic.  

A separate filing showed that the Haji-Ioannou family now owns 29.99% of easyJet down from the about 33% it used to own. That holding could fall further should the conditional element of the placing be approved by investors on 14 July.

The global airline industry has been hammered by the impact of coronavirus, with the huge slump in demand for international travel leading to thousands of planes being grounded and staff numbers slashed. 

Last month, MPs urged the Government to ‘strongly penalise’ BA for ‘taking advantage’ of the Job Retention scheme by claiming taxpayer subsidies to pay the wages of 23,000 staff, shortly before announcing mass redundancies. 

Meanwhile holiday giant Tui is looking to cut up to 8,000 roles worldwide with the firm calling Covid-19 the ‘greatest crisis’ the industry has faced.

The UK’s biggest tour operator posted losses of 845.8 million euro (£747m) in the first half of 2020, compared to 289.1 million (£255m) in the same period 12 months previously.

TUI, EasyJet and Ryanair CANCEL all flights and holidays to Greece after it bans travellers from the UK until July 15 because of high coronavirus infection rate 

ByDavid Wilcock, Whitehall Correspondent For Mailonline 

Travel firms have been forced to scrap thousands of flights and holiday packages in Greece after the nation extended its ban on arrivals from the UK.

TUI, Ryanair, Easyjet, Jet2 and British Airways have all axed travel plans for Brits who booked in the hope of a quick getaway in early July.

But the Greek prime minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis last night extended a UK flight ban due to end on July 1 to July 15.

He took the action despite UK plans to include Greece in a ‘green’ group of countries it was safe for Britons to travel to using quarantine-free air bridges, when a list is released later this week.

Greece has been relatively lightly affected by coronavirus, but the UK continues to be one of the worst affected countries in Europe.

He took the action despite UK plans to include Greece in a 'green' group of countries it was safe for Britons to travel to using quarantine-free air bridges, when an official list is released later this week

He took the action despite UK plans to include Greece in a ‘green’ group of countries it was safe for Britons to travel to using quarantine-free air bridges, when an official list is released later this week

How was easyJet doing before the lockdown? 

According to Feb 2020 flight schedules, easyJet operates more than 8,900 flights (one-way) a week, from more than 120 airports (mainly in Europe).

In terms of flights operated per week during the month of Feb 2020, easyJet’s top five airports are:

London Gatwick (LGW) – 850 flights

Geneva (GVA) – 522 flights

Berlin (TXL) – 396 flights

London Luton (LTN)– 372 flights

Amsterdam (AMS) – 353 flights.

Per week in Feb 2020, easyJet’s top five routes, in terms of scheduled seats available, are between:

London Gatwick (LGW) and Geneva (GVA)

London Gatwick (LGW) and Amsterdam (AMS)

Paris Orly (ORY) and Toulouse (TLS)

London Luton (LTN) and Amsterdam (AMS)

Paris Orly (ORY) and Nice (NCE).

Tui, the UK’s biggest tour operator, was due to serve four Greek islands when it resumed operations on July 11, while EasyJet had announced plans to resume flights from the UK to Greece next week with fares starting at £39.99.

The boss of TUI this morning demanded clarity over the air bridge scheme, warning that other countries could follow Greece’s example.

Andrew Flintham, managing director of TUI UK & Ireland, said the proposal could only work after ‘two-way conversations’ between Britain and other countries, adding: ‘I think there’s still going to be a few bumps in the road.’

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps last night officially ended the much-criticised blanket quarantine programme just three weeks after it was introduced for visitors and those returning to homes in the UK.

In a Written Ministerial Statement to MPs he confirmed new measures unveiled by Downing Street on Saturday, to come into effect ‘shortly’.

Under the traffic light system, drawn up by the Joint Biosecurity Centre and Public Health England and set to be in place by July 6, countries will be rated green, amber or red based on coronavirus infection levels, the reliability of official data and confidence in test and trace systems.

The automatic 14-day quarantine requirement will remain only for ‘red-rated’ countries such as the US and Brazil. Travel between ‘green’ and ‘amber’ countries will be quarantine-free, but passengers will have to fill in a ‘locator form’ to trace their movements.

But it came as Athens has extended its prohibition on UK flights to the country from July 1 until July 15, despite plans for it to feature on the UK’s list of countries eligible for quarantine-free travel.

It cited the UK’s high rate of coronavirus cases as one of the factors, with Sweden also being blocked for the same reason.

Greece has previously flip-flopped over allowing UK tourists back in, at one point asking the UK for a deal.

The state-run Amna news agency reported that prime minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis told a tourism industry meeting in Athens today: ‘The whole opening procedure is dynamic and the data will be continuously evaluated.’

An Easyjet spokesman told the Mirror: ‘We will being reviewing our flying schedule and any customers whose flights are required to be cancelled as a result of any restrictions will be notified and informed of their options which include a free of charge transfer, a voucher for the value of their booking or a refund.’

And a TUI spokesman added: ‘In accordance with updated advice from the Greek Government, our planned flights to Greece between 11-14 July won’t go ahead.

When we announced our plans to re-start summer holidays, we always said they were subject to Government guidelines. We’ll continue to monitor these and update our holiday programme as needed.’

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