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Baggage handlers and other service workers could be affected by Flybe collapse

By Alan Jones, PA Industrial Correspondent

Fears are growing for the jobs of thousands of workers who provided baggage handling and other services for Flybe following the airline’s collapse.

Thousands of employees at ground handling firm Swissport, based at regional airports across the UK, are anxiously waiting for news.

Sources said an announcement could be made later on Thursday warning that several thousand jobs are at risk.

Workers include baggage handlers, check-in staff and engineers.

Some engineers were told late on Wednesday that they were being laid off, sources said.

Nadine Houghton, GMB national officer, said: “The collapse of Flybe is a tragedy for the company’s loyal workforce.

“A domino effect now puts 1,400 jobs in the wider supply chain at immediate risk and threatens the future of vital regional airports.”

Tracey Moss, senior employment expert at Citizens Advice, said: “This will be a very anxious time for Flybe staff.

“We advise them to check with the administrator and their union about whether they should go to work.

“The uncertainty in situations like this can be very frustrating.

“It can help to ‘get your ducks in a row’ as they say: find out all the information you can, gather any financial evidence you may need to claim benefits and inform your mortgage company.”

Brian Strutton, general secretary of the British Airline Pilots’ Association (Balpa), said: “2,000 staff members have today woken up to the loss of their jobs, and many thousands more airport and other workers in the supply chain will also be deeply concerned.

“I believe there is a good economic case for a strong regional UK airline. Flybe operated routes which were not only economically and regionally vital, but also profitable.

“We will be exploring with the administrators which parts of Flybe can be rescued or sold as a going concern in the hope that as many jobs as possible can be saved.”

The GMB said thousands of Swissport baggage handling jobs are at risk at Birmingham, East Midlands, Cardiff, Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Manchester airports following the collapse.

(PA Graphics)

Ms Houghton said: “This is devastating news for GMB members working for Swissport and a dangerous moment for the UK economy – our regional aviation infrastructure is now at risk.

“The collapse of Flybe is already having a domino effect on good jobs across regions, where aviation is vital for sustaining connectivity and supporting local economies.

“The Government needs to urgently step in with a rescue plan for our regional airports to minimise damage and protect livelihoods. This means doing the right thing now and not prevaricating behind state aid rules nonsense that can be dealt with in due course. The UK economy and workforce must come first.

“GMB is in constant contact with Swissport and will fight to safeguard our members’ jobs.”

Workers at other firms including Menzies, which carry out services at regional airports, are also fearful for their jobs, sources said.

Pat McIlvogue, Unite regional industrial officer, said: “Unite has been informed that up to a third of workers at Menzies Aviation based in Glasgow Airport are at risk from redundancy following the collapse of Flybe.

“We are calling on the company to refrain from confirming any redundancies to allow for discussions to take place between the Scottish Government, trade unions and the industry.

“We have written to the Transport Minister, Michael Matheson, requesting an urgent meeting to coordinate a response to these worrying developments facing the aviation industry in order to safeguard hundreds of Scottish jobs.”

The GMB warned that up to eight regional airports face closure in the wake of the Flybe collapse, directly employing at least 1,000 workers in total.

The airports, including Anglesey, Southampton, Belfast, Exeter, Newquay, Wick and Jersey, are deemed at risk because more than 50% of their scheduled departures in 2019 were Flybe aircraft, said the union.

Welsh Economy Minister Ken Skates said Flybe had made a hugely positive impact on Cardiff Airport, accounting for 24% of passenger numbers, but owing to “proactive” steps it has taken in recent times to diversify and improve its financial sustainability, income generated from Flybe routes accounts for around 5.6% of revenue.

“Whilst of course it will be challenging to mitigate this loss, Cardiff Airport is not at risk,” he said.

A spokesman for Menzies Aviation said: “We are currently assessing the potential impact on our business and our colleagues that work at airports in Glasgow, Manchester, Exeter and the Isle of Man.

“We are communicating with our employees and will continue to do so as the situation evolves.”