Gatwick Airport now so deserted that it is paying staff to stay at home amid a travel crisis which is losing the business £1m every day
Gatwick Airport is now so deserted that it is paying staff to stay at home amid a travel crisis which is losing the business £1m every day.
More than half of the airport’s 1,787 staff are not needed because it is operating at a heavily reduced capacity, the Mail has learned. It has already lost 46 per cent of its staff since the start of the pandemic.
But as the airport prepares for a return to business as usual by spring 2022, it cannot let more staff go.
Deserted: Gatwick airport chief executive Stewart Wingate
Instead it has resorted to paying full wages to employees who are not working for chunks of the week, so they are ready to return when demand for travel rebounds.
Gatwick Airport staff received millions of pounds of support from the Government’s furlough scheme before it ended last month.
The business claimed £39.6m between April 2020 and June 2021 to temporarily lay off around 53 per cent of its staff at any given time. But its current system means it has returned to paying them full-time wages while they work less than half the hours they normally would.
They will be asked next year to clock some of the hours as unpaid overtime if capacity returns to normal.
This will see some staff ‘working back’ up to one extra shift each month in the summer, according to HR director David Conway. Gatwick Airport’s management have called on the Government to simplify international travel rules and drop expensive testing requirements for double-jabbed travellers.
It warned the UK is in danger of lagging behind Europe and the US in air travel, and has urged the Government to beware squandering the advantage it gained through the world-leading vaccination programme.
Chief executive Stewart Wingate said the Government needs to restore passenger confidence and get the industry back on track. He added: ‘While we welcome the removal of many countries from the red travel list, we still need further simplification of the current travel rules by removing all testing requirements for fully vaccinated passengers, ensuring common-sense recognition of foreign-issued vaccinations and removing the cumbersome Passenger Locator Form.’
In the first half of 2021 Gatwick lost £244m and in 2020, passenger numbers at Gatwick fell by 78 per cent. The number of passengers in the first half of 2021, at 569,000, was reached in the first five days of 2019.
It comes as the aviation industry faces an uphill battle to recover from the pandemic, as Britain is also facing a shortage of pilots.
Senior ministers are concerned that there may too few pilots to meet demand as experts predict a global shortage of 34,000 by 2025.
The number of pilots who retired during the pandemic was believed to be at least double usual levels, as many were furloughed or offered redundancy packages.
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