Britain’s largest airport group has announced plans to cut 900 jobs – as ministers launch a COVID-19 testing task force to try to revive travel.
Manchester Airports Group (MAG) – which has hubs in Manchester, Stansted and East Midlands – said a continued drop in demand at the end of the leave program and a lack of progress in testing had prompted it to act .
MAG said it was proposing to cut 465 jobs in Manchester, 376 in Stansted and 51 in East Midlands. Other job changes will also be made, in particular to change models.
The announcement came as the Department of Transportation said a new task force would work with industry to try to reduce 14-day quarantine times for travelers through the use of testing.
But there was no timeline for the introduction of a testing diet, prompting a lukewarm response from Virgin Atlantic – another matter hard hit speak pandemic – who welcomed this decision but warned that “every day counts” because 500,000 aviation jobs are at stake.
MAG said prospects for a recovery in demand – down 90% since March – were fading amid a resurgence of coronavirus cases in the UK and Europe, and a full recovery in the number of passengers was not expected until 2023-24.
“Meanwhile, the lack of dedicated support for the aviation sector, coupled with a lack of progress in introducing UK passenger testing to date, has continued to undermine consumer confidence in air travel. for next year, ”the group said.
The company said it had made “heavy use” of the government’s job retention program which subsidized the wages of workers temporarily laid off during the pandemic, as well as cutting all wages by 10% and the freezing of spending plans.
But the leave subsidy is replaced by an employment support program, offering a “much smaller contribution to cover wage costs” for six months from early November, he said.
“The reduction in financial support from the government, combined with a more difficult outlook, means that MAG must now come up with new measures to reduce the size of its workforce in order to secure the long-term future of the company,” the company said. company in a press release.
Managing Director Charlie Cornish said: “By now we would have expected to see a strong and sustained recovery in demand.
“Unfortunately, the resurgence of the virus across Europe and the reintroduction of travel restrictions meant that this did not happen.
“With the uncertainty as to when a vaccine will be widely available, we need to be realistic about when demand is likely to pick up.”
Lawrence Chapple-Gill of the Unite union said: “These job losses are an inevitable consequence of the government’s failure to provide specific support to the aviation sector, the sector which has been hit hardest by the pandemic. of COVID-19. “
Andy Burnham, Mayor of Greater Manchester, called for an industry-specific leave program and said industries like aviation had been “left dry”.
Aviation industry has pushed since the summer for the government to “pull itself together” and institute a testing regime to try to shorten the two-week quarantine period for passengers arriving from countries not on the UK’s safety list.
Launching the government’s task force on coronavirus testing, Transportation Secretary Grant Shapps said: “The current border measures have saved lives.
“Our understanding of the science now means we can step up our efforts to develop options for a test diet and help reinvigorate our world-leading travel industry.”
The DfT said the working group would examine the feasibility of “proposals based on a single test carried out after a period of self-isolation, provided by the private sector and at the expense of the passenger.”
The chief executives of Heathrow Airport, Manchester Airports Group, easyJet and Virgin Atlantic said in a joint statement that it was a “step in the right direction … to relaunch the economy and protect thousands of jobs.
They added: “We support the decision to go for a one-test, private-sector-led, passenger-funded approach that has no impact on the NHS.
“But travelers need a firm commitment that a comprehensive testing regime will be implemented in early November.”
The International Air Transport Association, an industry body, said: “The proposals on the table do not go as far as we had hoped.
“A reduction in the length of the quarantine is the minimum necessary to revive the demand for travel. “