Budget airline easyJet today announced plans to cut back services from Luton airport, axe its East Midlands base and reduce staff at other airports including Belfast International.
Luton flights will be reduced by 20% in order to move some of the carrier’s planes to more profitable routes in Europe, it said.
Easyjet also said it is consulting on reducing the number of flight crew at Belfast, Bristol, Newscastle and Stansted airports.
The consultation will affect approximately 10 pilots and cabin crew jobs in Belfast and 40 in total.
A spokeswoman for the company said there would be no change to flight frequency or routes from Belfast or the other airports.
She said that the number of aircraft based at the four airports “will remain stable” and that it was the company’s intention to re-deploy staff where possible.
EasyJet has 530 pilots and cabin crew at Luton where it operates 16 aircraft and carries 4.7 million passengers a year.
Andy Harrison, easyJet’s Chief Executive, blamed the cutbacks at Luton on the airport owner’s failure to recognise the commercial realities of the recession. Luton airport is owned by Luton Borough Council and operated by Spanish firm Abertis, which also runs Belfast International Airport.
It said airport costs at Luton had risen by 25% over the past three years, making the base “no longer competitive”. Negotiations with Abertis and the Council had broken down.
“I am deeply disappointed that Abertis and Luton Borough Council have not taken a more far-sighted approach which would have protected jobs at Luton.” said Mr Harrison.
“At a time when jobs are under threat in the town the airport should be an engine for growing employment, not a source of further unemployment.
“This can only happen, however, if the owner and the operator make the right commercial decisions and deliver a competitive cost base.”
The company said it did not see long term future growth for its East Midlands base and decided to move three planes based there to markets with better potential.