EASYJET is to sack up to 5,000 staff and close its hubs at Stansted, Southend and Newcastle airports.
The devastating announcement was made today as the airline admitted the rest of its UK network is “under review”.
Airline bosses gave the grim news to union chiefs of pilots and crew, and devastated staff were left gobsmacked.
An easyJet spokeswoman told The Sun: “As part of our update to the market on 28 May 2020 easyJet set out that it may need to reduce staff numbers by up to 30% as well as optimise its network and bases as a result of the pandemic.
“easyJet has today started formal consultation on proposals with employee representatives including Balpa and Unite on all of its UK based pilots and crew.
“The proposals include the potential closing of three of its bases in the UK – London Stansted, London Southend and Newcastle. These airports would remain part of easyJet’s route network.
“We have also informed all employees who may be directly affected by these proposals and will be providing full support to our people during this difficult time.
“We are fully committed to work closely with our employee representatives during these consultations with the aim of minimising job losses as far as possible.”
EasyJet told how it won’t reach expected revenue levels post lockdown until 2023.
The airline added: “Since the pandemic began, easyJet has taken decisive actions to remove cost and non-critical expenditure from the business at every level to mitigate the impact however, in line with IATA projections, easyJet believes that the levels of market demand seen in 2019 are not likely to be reached again until 2023.”
Johan Lundgren, easyJet CEO, 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 at Stansted, Southend and Newcastle, who have all worked tirelessly and have been fully committed to providing great service for our customers.”
EasyJet currently has 163 aircraft in the UK at 11 airports, serving 546 routes and flying more than 52 million passengers a year.
The aviation sector has been severely hit by coronavirus, with BA losing an extraordinary £20million a day.
Bosses want to axe 12,000 staff and ‘fire and re-hire’ the remaining 36,000 staff on lower wages.
Meanwhile, The Sun understands Virgin Atlantic’s future is “bleak” as it emerged yesterday they can’t afford to pay staff for holidays.
Airline insiders admitted it is “touch and go” if Sir Richard Branson’s carrier will survive the coronavirus pandemic meltdown.
Staff were reeling last night after being told bosses will not top up monthly furlough salary payments with annual leave taken.
Virgin said: “Any annual leave you have accrued while on furlough leave is to be considered taken.”
Bosses went on: “When you return to work your remaining annual leave allowance will be your usual annual entitlement, minus any annual leave you have already taken this year, which includes annual leave accrued and taken during furlough leave.”
Rachel Clarke, head of people services at Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Holidays, told staff: “We recognise this is a different approach to the government guidance, and we understand this is a big ask
“We’re asking for your help with annual leave, because unfortunately, as we strive to safeguard the future of the business, it’s just not affordable at this time. We also have to plan for what will likely be a very challenging period of recovery.”
The airline is planning to re-start passenger flights from July 20.
Staff who get the boot from the airline after that date will receive redundancy in August on a contractural minimum of 28 days notice.
Around 8,000 Virgin workers were furloughed at the start of lockdown, with staff paid 80 per cent of their salaries up to £2,500 a month for three months.
The scheme has been extended until October but cash-strapped Virgin has to contribute to the scheme from September.
Virgin was contacted for comment.