Easyjet to cut 700 jobs and close three bases, but firm 'committed' to Scottish operations

Easyjet has said it remains committed to its operations in Scotland, despite announcing “very difficult” plans to axe hundreds of pilots and close bases across the UK.

Easyjet plans to close its bases at Newcastle, London Stansted, and Southend. Picture JPI Media

The airline, which revealed last month it intends to reduce its workforce by up to 30 per cent as a result of the economic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, plans to axe more than 700 pilot jobs and close its bases at Newcastle, London Stansted, and Southend.

It has said that Newcastle, a popular airport for holidaymakers based in the Scottish Borders and the east coast of Scotland, will remain on its route network. According to the Civil Aviation Authority’s passenger survey report, around 240,000 Scots fly through the hub every year, accounting for nearly five per cent of its passenger traffic.

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The British Airline Pilots Association (BALPA), which said the jobs of 727 pilots are at risk, accused Easyjet of an “excessive overreaction.”

The company said it had begun a formal consultation with BALPA and the Unite union on the planned cuts and said it wanted to minimise job losses “as far as possible.”

The firm warned that the damage caused by Covid-19 means the levels of market demand seen in 2019 are unlikely to return until 2023.

However, the company was widely criticised in March after paying shareholders £174m in dividends despite appealing for government support to help weather a storm which has crippled the aviation industry.

The following month, the firm confirmed it had secured a £600m loan from the Covid Corporate Financing Facility, issued by the Treasury.

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Johan Lundgren, Easyjet’s chief executive office, said: ““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 forward.

“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 no reflection on our people who have all worked tirelessly and have been fully committed to providing great service for our customers.”

A spokesman for the company added: “Easyjet remains committed to its operations in Scotland where we base 13 aircraft - eight at Edinburgh and five at Glasgow - serving 69 routes and flying more than seven million passengers to and from the region every year.”

BALPA’s general secretary, Brian Strutton, pointed out the scale of the proposed cuts would impact on nearly a third of Easyjet’s pilots.

He 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 to recovery.

"But this seems an excessive over reaction and Easyjet won't find a supply of pilots waiting to come back when the recovery takes place over the next two years."

Mr Strutton added: “This is more evidence that aviation in the UK is caught in a death spiral of despair and individual airlines are flailing around without direction.

“BALPA repeats its call for the government to step in, provide a strategy and back a moratorium on job losses while all stakeholders sort out an holistic way forward for the whole aviation sector.”

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