Southampton Airport is in ‘imminent danger’ of being forced to close without government intervention, Unite, the UK and Ireland’s largest union, warned today (Thursday 12 March).
The union’s call came as baggage handler Swissport told staff at the airport that it is planning cuts of around 40 per cent to its nearly 200 strong workforce.
Unite, which represents nearly 400 Southampton Airport staff across a number of employers, said the collapse of Flybe – which accounted for 85 per cent of the airport’s flights – and the impact coronavirus poses are imperilling the airport’s future.
The union is calling on the government to protect Southampton, as well as other regional airports and the local economies that surround them, through the subsidisation of key routes, so that those previously operated by Flybe are rapidly filled by other carriers.
Other measures the government should introduce include the extension and creation of loans to airlines to ensure they can retain staff and routes until bookings recover and a delay in the payment of taxes and duties that airlines are obliged to pay.
Unite also believes that Southampton and other regional airports will need to insource key staff and operate a slimmed down operation until the industry recovers.
Unite regional officer Chris Gray said: “This is a very uncertain and rapidly changing period for the airport’s workforce and Unite is doing everything in its power to defend the jobs and interests of our members.
“When Flybe went under so did most of Southampton Airport’s work. This, combined with the spread of coronavirus, has left the airport in imminent danger.
“Southampton Airport can weather this storm, but it will require immediate government assistance to keep the UK’s airline industry up and running.
“As well as being an important employer, Southampton Airport is a key hub for the region’s economy.
“Ministers must step in and ensure the airport emerges after the current difficulties facing the industry have passed.
“Unite is committed to working with Southampton Airport and looking at all options in order to maintain a functioning airport.”