Coronavirus: Gatwick job losses exceed 1,000 as pandemic drags airport into the red

Job losses at Gatwick caused by COVID-19 are on course to total more than 1,000 after the “dramatic” impact of the pandemic saw it plunge to a £344m half-year loss.

The airport revealed that 740 employees have already left even before the 600 cuts announced in restructuring plans set out earlier this week.

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Gatwick’s results showed that passenger numbers slowed to a trickle as lockdowns took effect in the spring and that it expects recovery to pre-pandemic levels will take four to five years.

It also said it was seeking a waiver from its lenders as it faces a possible breach of borrowing agreements but that it believed it could secure their “necessary and timely support”.

Chief executive Stewart Wingate said: “Like any other international airport, the negative impact of COVID-19 on our passenger numbers and air traffic at the start of the year was dramatic and, although there are small signs of recovery, it is a trend we expect to continue to see.

“As with any responsible company we have protected our financial resilience by significantly reducing our operational costs and capital expenditure.

“Despite the immediate challenges I remain resolutely optimistic that Gatwick will recover and retain its position as one of the UK’s leading travel hubs and economic driver for the region.”

Gatwick reported a pre-tax loss of £343.9m for the first half of the year compared to a profit of £59.4m in the same period last year, as revenues fell 61% to £144.2m.

That came as passenger numbers fell by 66% in the first half, with the figure even starker for the April-June period alone when they fell 99.6% – from 12.5 million last year to just 45,149.

Gatwick remained open through the period serving skeleton services from Ryanair and Wizz Air as well as repatriation, freight and maintenance flights.

Services gradually resumed over the summer but the return of passengers was held back by quarantine measures on tourist hotspots such as Spain.

Gatwick is currently operating from its North Terminal only, and the airport is at 20% of capacity compared to the same time last year and with 75% of staff on furlough.

It said cost-cutting measures included a 20% reduction in staff costs.

“Over 740 employees have permanently left or agreed to leave the business through a combination of voluntary and compulsory severance with further reductions expected in Q3,” the airport said.

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This week, Gatwick revealed plans for a restructuring putting 600 jobs at risk.

The results are the latest to show how the pandemic has crushed the aviation sector.

They come on the same day as Norwegian Air reported a net loss of 5.4bn kroner (£450m) for the first half of the year and warned that it needed more cash to get it through the crisis even after a bailout by Oslo’s government.

On Thursday, Britain’s Rolls-Royce reported a record half-year loss of £5.4bn as a collapse in flying demand took its toll on the engine maker.

Earlier this week, Virgin Atlantic secured the backing of creditors for a £1.2bn rescue deal.

Sky’s tracker of publicly-announced job cuts since the lockdown shows aviation is one of the worst-affected sectors, accounting for around one in four of the total.

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