EasyJet has begun talks with unions on cutting up to 1,900 UK-based jobs including more than 700 pilots after the collapse in air travel due to coronavirus.
The airline also said it was looking at the closure of three of its bases in the UK – London Stansted, London Southend and Newcastle, though the airports would remain part of its route network.
On Tuesday, the carrier said that as part of this it had begun formal consultations with trade unions Unite and Balpa relating to UK pilots and crew.
That number totals 1,900 but the airline said it would seek to work with unions to try to minimise job losses.
EasyJet said it had already taken “decisive action” to cut spending since the crisis began but that it faced a subdued market in which demand was not likely to return to 2019 levels until 2023.
Chief executive Johan Lundgren said: “These are very difficult proposals to put forward in what is an unprecedented and difficult time for the airline and the industry as a whole.
“We are focused on doing what is right for the company and its long term health and success so we can protect jobs going forward.
“Unfortunately the lower demand environment means we need fewer aircraft and have less opportunity for work for our people – we are committed to working constructively with our employee representatives across the network with the aim of minimising job losses as far as possible.
“These proposals are no reflection on our people at Stansted, Southend and Newcastle, who have all worked tirelessly and have been fully committed to providing great service for our customers.”
Balpa, the pilot’s union, said it was “shocked at the size of the potential job losses”.
General secretary Brian Strutton said: “This seems an excessive over-reaction and easyJet won’t find a supply of pilots waiting to come back when the recovery takes place over the next two years.”
He said the union would be “fighting to save every single job” and reiterated a call for the government to step in to help the aviation sector – which has been among the worst hit by the lockdown.