Norwegian Air’s decision to pull out of the long-haul market comes as "another devastating blow" for Gatwick airport, the Unite union has said.
On Thursday (14 January), Norwegian confirmed it would refocus its attentions exclusively on short-haul as part of a wide-ranging restructure.
The move will affect more than 1,000 Gatwick-based roles, including around 300 pilot positions according to pilots union Balpa, which said Norwegian’s decision showed aviation "remained in serious crisis" owing to the pandemic.
Gatwick, though, is disproportionately affected by the decision, with it serving as Norwegian’s European long-haul base.
Nearly half of the total expected job losses arising from Norwegian’s decision to quit long-haul will be at Gatwick, with a further 1,000 at risk at in France, Spain, Italy and the US.
Unite, which represents around 700 Gatwick-based Norwegian staff, said it was putting emergences measures in place to support staff and help them lodge claims for redundancy payment.
It is also considering whether to launch legal proceedings.
Jamie Major, Unite regional officer, said Norwegian’s plans to fold its UK crewing and staffing entity was another devastating blow for Gatwick’s workers, the local community and the aviation industry.
“Unite is setting up emergency measures to fully support our members at this incredibly difficult time, including help accessing the redundancy payment service and legal assistance for potential claims," said Major.
“While coronavirus travel restrictions are certainly the reason for Norwegian Air’s difficulties, poor business decisions in the years preceding the pandemic have not helped."
Major said airline staff should not shoulder the burden of the carrier’s decision, and must be "the first priority" for administrator KPMG.
He added the government must now step in to preserve aviation jobs.
“For nearly a year, as thousands upon thousands of aviation jobs have been decimated by Covid-19, Unite has warned ministers the kind of support for the industry seen in competitor nations is desperately needed here," said Major.
"It is now absolutely imperative government steps in with a stabilisation and recovery plan to prevent even more aviation jobs and businesses going to the wall.”
Unite has partnered with the TUC and all other aviation unions to call on government to set out economic and fiscal measures to support the aviation sector, including extending the furlough scheme, suspending air passenger duty, and extending the terms of any emergency loans taken out by aviation companies beyond two years.