UK airport group to cut up to 900 jobs as furlough nears end

The owner of three major UK airports is planning to cut up to 900 jobs in response to a fall in passenger numbers and the end of the government furlough scheme.

Manchester Airports Group (MAG) has begun discussions with trade unions over the loss of up to 465 roles at Manchester airport, 376 at London Stansted and 51 at East Midlands airport.

Additionally, it is looking to make other changes such as altering certain roles and staff roster patterns, in an effort to cut costs to ensure the future of the business following the pandemic.

Aviation has been one of the sectors hardest hit by coronavirus, and the airport operator said it had seen a more than 90% fall in demand from passengers between April and August.

Its three airports welcomed 2.8 million passengers during that period, compared with 30.3 million the previous year. The group revealed that current monthly passenger demand was 75% below normal levels.

MAG, which employs around 6,000 people, said it had taken steps to reduce its cost base since the start of the pandemic, including asking every employee to accept a year-long 10% pay cut, while it also paused investment and non-essential spending.

The company said it had already reduced the size of its management team and made extensive use of the government’s furlough job retention scheme. It is understood to have furloughed at least 70% of its staff during lockdown.

The furlough scheme finishes at the end of October, to be replaced by the less generous job support scheme, where the government will cover 22% of worker pay for six months.

The group said the reduction in government support, combined with sluggish demand and a fresh increase in coronavirus cases, meant it had to reduce its workforce.

“By now, we would have hoped to see a strong and sustained recovery in demand. Unfortunately, the resurgence of the virus across Europe and the reintroduction of travel restrictions have meant this has not happened,” said Charlie Cornish, the chief executive of MAG.

“The end of the job retention scheme means that we have to consider the number of roles that we can sustain at our airports.”

Cornish thanked staff for their “dedication” during what he called the “toughest summer our industry has ever seen”.

The airport operator does not expect passenger demand to recover fully until 2023-24.

A raft of airport and airlines including Gatwick and British Airways have cut jobs in a battle to reduce costs during the pandemic.

MAG and much of the rest of the aviation industry have lobbied government to allow the urgent introduction of coronavirus testing on passengers arriving at UK airports, warning that failure to allow this was weighing on the aviation industry and putting thousands of jobs at risk.

The transport secretary, Grant Shapps, on Wednesday unveiled a taskforce to develop options for a testing system.