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Low-cost carrier Easyjet has started consultations with trade
unions over its plans to reduce its staffing levels by up to 30 per cent, which
includes the possibility of closing its bases at Stansted, Southend and
The airline has started formal consultations on the
proposals with the British Airline Pilots Association (BALPA) and the Unite
union regarding job losses affecting its UK-based pilots and crew. It said it will continue to serve the three airports as part of its route network.
According to BALPA, the plan puts 727 pilot roles – one in
three of Easyjet’s UK pilots – at risk of redundancy.
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 the recovery.
But this seems an excessive over-reaction and Easyjet won’t find a supply of
pilots wanting to come back when the recovery takes place over the next two
years. Easyjet paid £174 million out to shareholders, got agreements to
furlough staff to protect cash, got £600 million from the government, has
boasted of having £2.4 billion in liquidity, and ticket sales are going through
the roof so fast they cannot get pilots back off furlough quickly enough – so why
the panic? It doesn’t add up. We are meeting Easyjet today and we will be
fighting to save every single job.”
Unite national officer for civil aviation Oliver Richardson
said: “This is yet another massive blow to the aviation industry and our
thoughts are with workers who face losing their jobs through no fault of their
“There is no need for this announcement at this time,
especially since Easyjet has taken a multi-million pounds government loan,
which it ought to be putting to use defending UK jobs. This is a company with
its priorities all wrong. It has paid a multi-million dividend to its
shareholders, borrowed hundreds of millions from the government to buy new
aircraft and has fully utilised the jobs retention scheme. It absolutely should
not be allowed to make huge redundancies a few weeks later.
“The latest announcement further demonstrates why it is
absolutely essential that the government extends its job retention scheme for
the aviation sector, which has been one of the industries worst hit by the
"We are now more than three months on since the chancellor
promised support for UK aviation. The government’s ongoing failure to provide
such support is directly resulting in huge job losses throughout the industry
and is threatening the viability of airlines and airports alike.
“The aviation industry is essential to the future prosperity
of the UK’s economy and it is essential that the UK government steps up to the
plate and provides specific support in line with other nations.”
But Easyjet CEO Johan Lundgren insisted the potential job
cuts are necessary to protect the business. “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
“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 in no way a 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.”
Ralph Hollister, travel and tourism analyst at GlobalData, said:
“Although it is vital that Easyjet cuts costs to operate efficiently amid the
current level of demand for air travel, there is a danger that its streamlining
initiatives could be too aggressive. The airline could end up being left bare
and short of labour if demand continues to surge as European governments
continue to relax travel restrictions – pilots that are made redundant won’t
simply sit back and wait for the airline to re-employ them when sufficient
demand levels return.
“IATA does not expect pre-coronavirus demand levels to
return until at least 2023. Although Easyjet and many other carriers have
echoed these sentiments, they shouldn’t completely bank on this being the case.
The airline needs to put itself in a position where it can react quickly to
sudden changes in the external environment ready to consume more of the
returning demand. Although limiting cost-cutting plans comes with obvious
risks, airlines need to find a happy medium to have both scenarios covered in
the event of pick-up in sustained demand that is quicker than expected.”
The airline grounded its entire fleet between March and June and began resuming domestic flights in the UK and France earlier this month. It plans to restore 50 per cent of its network in July, gradually increasing to 75 per cent by August.