London City airport to make more than a third of staff redundant

London City airport is to make more than a third of its staff redundant in the latest job cuts in the battered aviation sector.

The airport, situated in east London and serving a largely business clientele, has started consulting over up to 239 job losses in what it called a restructuring plan to safeguard its future.

London City shut down for three months at the height of the pandemic and, after reopening in late June, is now operating only 17 routes. Most staff were furloughed and the airport has until now avoided the kind of widespread job cuts seen elsewhere.

The chief executive, Robert Sinclair, said: “The aviation sector is in the throes of the biggest downturn it has ever experienced as a result of the pandemic. We have held off looking at job losses for as long as possible, but sadly we are not immune from the devastating impact of this virus.”

He said the airport’s focus in the coming weeks would be to help its staff through this period, but added: “We believe that the difficult decisions we are taking now will enable the airport to bounce back in a better shape when growth returns.”

Last month the airport suspended most of its £500m redevelopment programme, including an extended terminal, bar works already under way.

The UK’s biggest airport, Heathrow, has already laid off a third of its managers and told frontline staff to accept pay cuts or further job losses, as its chief executive warned that the surrounding borough of Hounslow risked ending up like a mining town in the 1980s unless flying resumed.

Gatwick said last month it would cut 600 jobs, amid calls across the aviation sector for government help. Airlines are now not expecting passenger demand to return to normal levels until at least 2023 or 2024.

Aerospace group Airbus has also warned staff it may have to make compulsory redundancies after having signalled it would seek to shed up to 15,000 of its 130,000 employees through voluntary measures. The Toulouse-based manufacturer has already earmarked more than 1,400 job losses at its UK wing-making plant in Broughton, north Wales.

The Airbus chief executive, Guillaume Faury, told staff on Friday: “We must now prepare for a crisis that will probably be even deeper and longer than the previous scenarios suggested.”