Jarrow MP urges easyJet to reverse scrapping plans for Newcastle Airport base - and calls for more Government support for airlines
Jarrow MP Kate Osborne has called for easyJet to reverse plans to close its North East base and scrap international flights from Newcastle Airport.
Plans for the closures were first revealed in June and are now due to go ahead next month, putting hundreds of jobs at risk.
From September 1, easyJet will only continue to operate flights to three destinations to and from Newcastle Airport.
In a statement, Johan Lundgren, easyJet’s chief executive, blamed the “unprecedented impact of the [Covid-19] pandemic and related travel restrictions” for the base closures, adding UK quarantine measures were affecting demand for travel.
Jarrow MP Kate Osborne has now called for the airline boss to reverse the decision – describing the base closures as “permanent solutions to a temporary problem.”
Writing to Mr Lundgren on August 19, she said: “I appreciate that the coronavirus pandemic has affected the aviation sector globally and many airlines are facing a drop in customer demand and confidence.
“However I believe the steps easyJet are taking are permanent solutions to a temporary problem.
“By closing the North East base, easyJet are making dedicated, skilled workers redundant, cutting the availability of flights from this region and pushing prices of flights from other airlines up.
“The North East is a region that has already suffered at the hands of regional inequality. We have had decades of underinvestment and deprivation in many of our communities.
“By scrapping international flights from Newcastle Airport, this will mean many families will lose out on the opportunity of affordable holidays due to having to travel out of the region for flights.”
The Jarrow MP has also written to the Government to ask for specific support for the Civil Air Transport (CAT) sector to aid its recovery and protect workers.
This included a ‘bespoke furlough package’ for CAT workers lasting until the beginning of the summer season in 2021 and government support with a focus on route networks to “protect regional connectivity.”
In a letter to the easyJet chief, Ms Osborne added: “If reversing the decision to close the North East base and the scrapping of international flights is not possible, I ask you to extend the employment of at-risk employees until October 31, 2020, fully utilising the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and to work with trade union representatives on this.”
It remains unclear at this time how many jobs in the North East will be affected by the easyJet base closure.
In a statement earlier this week, easyJet’s chief executive said the company was looking at ways to “significantly reduce the number of proposed compulsory redundancies.”
This included ‘enhanced voluntary redundancy packages’ for all UK crew alongside extra options such as part time and seasonal contracts, base transfers and unpaid leave.
Customers due to fly at airports affected by the easyJet base closures will be contacted with advice on their options, including re-routing via alternative airports or a full refund.
Newcastle Airport bosses have previously said that 80% of the destinations impacted by the easyJet base closure are served by other airlines.
Passengers affected by flight cancellations who wish to rebook with another airline from Newcastle Airport can also amend their car park bookings free of charge.