Covid impact on airport-related jobs shown in new jobless figures – bad in areas too dependent on aviation
The devastating toll the coronavirus pandemic in causing unemployment in areas heavily dependent on airports is growing ever more clear. The number who have lost jobs around Heathrow, Gatwick, Manchester, Luton and Stansted has risen by around 35% since March compared with surrounding areas. The pandemic was rapidly spread around the world by airlines, and they have been heavily impacted by necessary travel bans, in attempt to control the spread of Covid. MPs in affected constituencies want the Government to help aviation businesses and their supply chains. According to the Commons Library figures, the unemployment claimant toll in Hayes and Harlington, next door to Heathrow, climbed from 2,725 in March to 7,750 in October – a 184% surge. In London as a whole, the rise was 156%. In Crawley, West Sussex, next to Gatwick, it went from 2,030 to 5,655 – a 179% increase. It rose by 140% in the wider South East region. And there are similar figures for areas near Manchester, Stansted and Luton airports. The industry says it will have difficulty recruiting staff again, if and when demand returns. Only time will tell if the industry will be considerably smaller in the years to come, and many staff will transfer into “greener” jobs that cause lower carbon emissions.
Coronavirus’ impact on airport communities laid bare in new jobless figures
EXCLUSIVE: Labour asked the House of Commons Library to study the rise in unemployment claimant counts in constituencies which have big airports
By Ben Glaze, Deputy Political Editor (The Mirror)
4 DEC 2020
The devastating toll the coronavirus pandemic is inflicting on workers at Britain’s airports and airlines workers is laid bare tonight.
Research shows unemployment is a third higher in “aviation communities” compared with regional averages.
The jobless claimant counts in constituencies which include the UK’s five biggest airports – Heathrow, Gatwick, Manchester, Luton and Stansted – have rocketed by an average 35% since March compared with surrounding areas.
Air travel ground to halt in March as the pandemic swept the planet.
The industry has struggled to recover amid tight restrictions on international movement.
Shadow Employment Minister Seema Malhotra said: “Aviation is far more than airports and airlines; the sector supports communities the length and breadth of the country.
“We are in the midst of a jobs crisis, with aviation communities hit hard and facing rising levels of unemployment.
“The Government must act now to deliver an aviation sector deal that responds to the specific needs of aviation businesses and their supply chains.
“Not acting now will be devastating for our recovery and future growth.”
According to the Commons Library figures, the unemployment claimant toll in Hayes and Harlington, West London, which includes Britain’s busiest airport, Heathrow, climbed from 2,725 in March to 7,750 in October – a 184% surge .
In London as a whole, the rise was 156%.
A Heathrow spokeswoman said : “These figures demonstrate the devastating impacts Covid-19 has inflicted on communities that are reliant on their local airport for jobs and livelihoods.”
In Crawley, West Sussex, home to the UK’s second busiest airport, Gatwick, it went from 2,030 to 5,655 – a 179% increase.
It rose by 140% in the wider South East region.
In Wythenshawe and Sale East, which includes Manchester Airport, it leapt from 2,845 to 5,570 – a 96% jump.
Yet the wider North West region suffered only an 86% rise.
In Saffron Walden, Essex, which includes Stansted Airport, the claimant count accelerated from 880 in March to 2,675 in October – a 204% increase.
in Luton South, which includes Luton Airport, it jumped from 2,870 to 7,080 – a 147% surge.
Yet in the wider East of England region, which includes Stansted and Luton, the count rose by 125%.
Airports and airlines were forced to slash jobs as coronavirus tightened its grip on the globe and planes ground to a halt.
According to data analysts Statista, flights to and from the UK are down 84.9% compared with last year.
The International Air Transport Association said flights worldwide flights were down 47% in October compared with the same month in 2019 – with just 1.62 million compared with 3.06m in 2019.
It predicted global industry losses of $118.5billion (£88.7bn) this year, with total revenue losses of $510bn (£382bn).
British Airways is in the process of cutting 13,000 posts, Virgin Atlantic has announced 4,300 job cuts and EasyJet is shedding up to 4,500 roles.
The Unite union backed Labour calls for an “aviation sectoral deal”.
National officer for civil air transport Oliver Richardson said: “The failure of the Government to provide a comprehensive package of aviation sector specific support is a major contributory factor to these huge numbers of job losses, both in aviation itself and in the connected communities and supply chains.
“Sector specific support from the outset would not only have saved many of the jobs lost but would also have protected the skilled, experienced staff needed to rebuild, and been more cost effective to the Treasury than paying out benefits.
“If the Government had acted earlier, then far fewer families would have found themselves facing a bleak Christmas this year.”
Airlines UK chief executive Tim Alderslade said: “The industry has lost tens of thousands of jobs and unless we can comprehensively open up aviation many more will be lost once the furlough scheme comes to an end.
“The Government has made a good start with its test and release scheme but we see that very much as stage one of the process of removing quarantine, which is the real inhibitor to passenger demand.
“Pre-departure or rapid UK testing is the only road to a full recovery for the sector, and hopefully the safeguarding of the remaining jobs across the sector.”
A Government spokeswoman said: “We recognise the challenging times facing the aviation sector as a result of Covid-19, which is why we will do everything we can to help this critical industry.
“Protecting jobs is an absolute priority and the extension of the furlough scheme, as well as wider support through action on airport slots, loans and tax deferrals, will help businesses safeguard jobs during winter.”
Overturn airport jobs crisis with a Green New Deal for Gatwick
There is great concern around many airports, about the number of people who have lost their jobs, or will lose them in coming months. A new report by 3 organisations, the PCS trade union, Green New Deal UK, and the Green House Think Tank shows how new jobs could be created in the Gatwick area, for those now unemployed. Their analysis indicates that around 16,000 “green” jobs could be created around Gatwick if an ambitious job creation strategy was adopted. And they calculate that the cost would be comparable to the amount of APD that Gatwick air passengers might pay in 2021 – around £329 million (calculated as the proportion of all UK air passengers that go via Gatwick – about 15.6% in 2019). This number has been chosen, as the airlines (through Airlines UK) have been lobbying to have APD suspended for a year in 2021; if that happened, it might mean a loss to the Treasury of around £2.1 billion. The £329 million (approx) would be able to fund perhaps x13 as many “green” jobs (such as building retrofits, low-energy transport, restoring nature, and social care) as would be secured in the aviation sector. And these jobs would help avoid the excessive vulnerability of the Gatwick area of being too dependent on aviation.
UK cross-party group to lobby for Covid funds in areas that depend on airports
Cllr Steve Curran, the Labour leader of Hounslow council and Henry Smith, the Conservative MP for Crawley, have written an Opinion piece in the Guardian about the sorry state of their areas – with Heathrow and Gatwick areas badly hit by the collapse in demand for air travel. They say they “have the awful distinction of heading the national league tables for furloughed and unemployed workers. ...There’s little prospect of aviation returning to anything like its previous levels, not even with the advent of a vaccine, not in the short term. The damage may well prove to be permanent … In Hounslow…and Crawley … 40% of our workforces were being supported by the state at the end of the summer. This number is likely to worsen. It is similar for parts of Birmingham, Essex, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Teesside, Newcastle and Glasgow and the other districts where concentrations of airport workers live.” They say it is not only the air crews and pilots but all the support workers. There will be an Aviation Communities Summit on Tuesday 24 November – to assess the economic and social harm, and to ask the government to establish an aviation communities fund to meet the immediate and longer-term needs.
IATA says airlines unable to cut costs enough to save jobs – even if pay is reduced
IATA says the airline industry cannot cut costs sufficiently to prevent severe “cash burn” to avoid bankruptcies and preserve jobs in 2021. IATA wants governments to provide money for airlines, to keep them going and avoid redundancies. At a time of increasing Covid in many countries, including Europe, IATA is (rather bizarrely, but for self interest of the airlines) asking for relaxed measures on Covid. They want more people flying, with less comprehensive quarantine for passengers, which risks increasing infections. IATA says the airline industry’s revenues will be down about 66% this year, compared to 2019, and down perhaps 46% in 2021, compared to 2019. IATA says without additional government financial relief, the median airline has 8.5 months of cash remaining at current burn rates. The airlines are not able to cut fixed costs in line with reduced income. Around 50% of airlines’ costs are fixed or semi-fixed, at least in the short-term. The cost per passenger flown, or per available plane seat, have risen – as planes are not full.” It considers cutting labour costs by about 50%, and even then airlines would be making a loss.