Aviation services firm Swissport to cut more than 4,500 UK jobs

Airport trade body warns up to 20,000 jobs in UK at risk as result of coronavirus crisis

The airport ground handling company Swissport is planning to cut more than 4,500 jobs in the UK, as a trade body warned as many as 20,000 UK jobs could be lost in an industry reeling from the coronavirus pandemic.

Swissport, which handles services such as passenger baggage and cargo for airlines, on Wednesday began a consultation process that is expected to result in 4,556 workers being made redundant, more than half of its 8,500 UK workforce.

Swissport was already under pressure at the start of the crisis when the collapse of the regional airline Flybe put smaller UK airports at risk. However, the grounding of the vast majority of flights since the UK’s lockdown began has all but wiped out revenues for many airlines and their suppliers.

The Airport Operators Association (AOA), which represents more than 50 airports, said on Wednesday up to 20,000 jobs were at risk across UK airports because of persistently lower passenger numbers.

Some of Swissport’s largest operations include services at London’s Gatwick and Heathrow, Manchester, Newcastle, Edinburgh and Glasgow, alongside a host of regional airports.

The company declined to give details of where the job losses would fall. Swissport employed about 64,000 workers globally before the crisis.

In a memo to staff, Jason Holt, the chief executive of Swissport Western Europe, said the cuts were necessary to “secure the lifeline of funding from lenders and investors”.

Swissport’s UK revenues were down by 75% in May, Holt wrote. Swissport is experiencing “the most difficult times in our company’s history”, he added.

The latest redundancies will heighten pressure on the government to support the aviation and aerospace industries, with tens of thousands of job losses already under way. The airlines British Airways and Virgin Atlantic plan to cut 12,000 and 3,000 jobs respectively and the jet engine maker Rolls-Royce is making 9,000 people redundant because of slumping demand for new engines and the associated maintenance.

Sign up to the daily Business Today email or follow Guardian Business on Twitter at @BusinessDesk

The government’s coronavirus job retention scheme is understood to have paid the wages of 59,000 furloughed workers in the aviation industry but the planned end of the scheme at the end of October has prompted many companies to start making workers redundant, given that volumes in some industries are not expected to recover to 2019 levels for years.

Before making the cuts, Swissport had directly lobbied the government for support for the sector alongside airlines and airports. Their focus has been on the removal of 14-day quarantine restrictions on UK arrivals, which provoked fury from aviation bosses who said it would cost jobs.

Karen Dee, the AOA’s chief executive, said: “Commercial aviation in the UK has weathered the worst three months in its history, and is now presented with an arbitrary quarantine policy, which has unnecessarily stifled the sector’s restart and recovery plans.”

However, demands for bailouts for specific airlines have faced opposition because of concerns over the viability of some of the businesses who have asked for aid, as well as environmental campaigners’ demands that emissions reductions be prioritised as well as job retention. The French government’s €7bn (£6.3bn) bailout of Air France included specific conditions on halving carbon dioxide emissions per passenger.

The AOA said it thought the toll of job losses triggered by the downturn could be as high as 100,000 if indirectly supported jobs were considered.

Nadine Houghton, a national officer at the GMB, said Swissport’s cuts were “devastating news” that would particularly hit regional economies.

“With Swissport now considering job cuts on this scale, we have deep concerns about the viability of many of our regional airports and the benefits for regional connectivity that they bring,” she said.


Jasper Jolly

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
More flights cancelled as increased Easter passenger numbers pile on pressure
Heathrow ‘stretched’ but airport pledges to build up resources as quickly as possible

Mark Sweney

11, Apr, 2022 @12:01 PM

Article image
BA and easyJet cancel more than 150 flights as travel chaos continues
Passengers face more delays going into extended platinum jubilee bank holiday

Joanna Partridge

01, Jun, 2022 @10:46 AM

Article image
What is behind the disruption at UK airports?
Long check-in queues and flight cancellations come as travellers try to get away for Easter

Gwyn Topham and Rupert Jones

04, Apr, 2022 @5:29 PM

Article image
Airlines expect smooth half-term getaways from England after summer disruption
British Airways and easyJet confident of fulfilling schedule in busiest weekend before Christmas

Gwyn Topham Transport correspondent

21, Oct, 2022 @12:44 PM

Article image
BA and easyJet cancel more flights, adding to misery for travellers
Heathrow and Gatwick cancellations a result of staff shortages because of Covid

Joanna Partridge

06, Apr, 2022 @9:19 AM

Article image
Aviation bosses raise 'serious concern' over UK quarantine plans
Senior figures question scientific basis for 14-day quarantine and whether it can be enforced

Rob Davies and Jasper Jolly

11, May, 2020 @5:44 PM

Article image
Virgin Atlantic bailout backed by Rolls-Royce, Airbus and Heathrow
Transport secretary Grant Shapps urged to help airline, which seeks large cash injection

Gwyn Topham Transport correspondent

01, Apr, 2020 @4:47 PM

Article image
Extra Rolls-Royce plane engine checks to disrupt flights
Ongoing problems with engine used in Boeing Dreamliner 787 to drive up firm’s costs

Adam Vaughan

13, Apr, 2018 @3:04 PM

Article image
Heathrow told to cut passenger charges in move that could lower fares
Decision by Civil Aviation Authority comes despite airport having argued for higher fees

Kalyeena Makortoff and Gwyn Topham

08, Mar, 2023 @8:22 AM

Article image
BA and Virgin Atlantic put aside rivalry for return of leisure flights to US
First transatlantic flights since Covid travel ban in March 2020 will take off from Heathrow at same time

Gwyn Topham Transport correspondent

08, Nov, 2021 @12:01 AM