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Coronavirus: EasyJet jobs at risk as bases close and Ryanair axes flights

A Ryanair and easyJet aircraft parked at Southend airport after airlines reduced flights amid travel restrictions and a huge drop in demand as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
Ryanair and easyJet aircraft as the former axes flights and latter plans to close bases. Photo: PA

Hundreds of EasyJet (EZJ.L) workers’ jobs are at risk as it confirmed three UK bases will close, with the airline expecting a slow recovery amid the pandemic and slashing costs.

It comes on the same day Ryanair (RYA.L) axed a fifth of its flights in September and October, and new German rules for arrivals from Spain sent European travel stocks tumbling. Both airlines highlighted the impact of tighter restrictions from European governments amid rising infection rates.

EasyJet confirmed in a statement its Stansted, Southend and Newcastle bases will close from 31 August. Around 670 crew and pilots are based at the three sites.

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Some flights will continue from Stansted and Newcastle however, served by other bases, but many customers are likely to face disruption to planned flights.

EasyJet said it would be informing customers about their options, including transfer to other airports or refunds, “in the coming days.”

EasyJet voluntary redundancies

The airline had previously said up to a third of its entire workforce could face the axe, with 2019 levels of demand across the sector not expected to recover until 2024.

Up to 1900 UK-based staff were told their roles were at risk in June, when the three base closures were first proposed.

An EasyJet spokesperson said it could not confirm job loss numbers as consultation was ongoing, but said it would be lower than 1900 and most would be on enhanced redundancy terms.

The company said 93% of cabin crew at risk of redundancy had “opted for an enhanced voluntary redundancy package,” limiting compulsory lay-offs.

The company has also looked at options like part-time and seasonal contracts, base transfers and unpaid leave, though did not say how many workers had taken up such measures.

READ MORE: What to watch: Quarantines hit travel stocks, Amazon probe, UK property boom

“We have had to take the very difficult decision to close three UK bases as a result of the unprecedented impact of the pandemic and related travel restrictions, compounded by quarantine measures in the UK which is impacting demand for travel,” said Johan Lundgren, easyJet CEO.

The company said it “remains committed” to its UK operations, but said it will “continue to review its network and bases.” It has eight other UK bases, and serves over 490 routes.

Ryanair axes 20% of September and October flights

Meanwhile EasyJet’s budget airline rival Ryanair announced it would slash flights in September and October by 20%, blaming falling bookings as infection rates have risen in some European countries.

A spokesperson for Ryanair said most cuts would be to the frequency of flights rather than scaling back the number of routes operating. Spain, France, and Sweden are likely to be most affected. Customers with September bookings have been informed, and October passengers will be informed soon about their options.

"These capacity cuts and frequency reductions for the months of Sept & Oct are necessary given the recent weakness in forward bookings due to Covid restrictions in a number of EU countries,” a statement said.

“Over the past two weeks as a number of EU countries have raised travel restrictions, forward bookings especially for business travel into Sept & Oct have been negatively affected, and it makes sense to reduce frequencies so that we tailor our capacity to demand over the next two months.”

The airline, which has heavily criticised quarantine measures, repeated its call for proper testing at airports and effective tracing as the “only realistic and proportionate” response.

We have not finished the consultation – just the collective part of the process – and so we cannot confirm the total number although we know it will be lower than 1900 and most will leave on enhanced voluntary redundancy terms. The 670 is included in the 1900 number.