Crawley: Covid-19 and an airport town's downturn

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Speak to people who live in Crawley and chances are they or someone they know has been impacted financially by Covid-19.

25,800 people were on furlough, the highest in West Sussex, and the town has seen one of the largest increases anywhere of people claiming unemployment benefit.

Its success has followed in the shadow of Gatwick Airport but since the decline of flights because of the pandemic.

British Airways, Virgin, Easyjet, Norwegian and the airport itself have all made redundancies.

  • Ghost town Gatwick

ITV News Meridian's Tom Savvides was given special access to Gatwick Airport to see first hand how the pandemic has impacted.

There's also been a huge domino effect on jobs with thousands of people who worked directly or indirectly for the aviation industry now out of work.

  • People claiming universal credit in Crawley

Crawley had the highest number of people on furlough

September 2020


September 2019



  • The faces behind the figures

Michael Lindop and Abigail Kelly have never met but both have lost jobs with an airline.

Michael has completed a handful of flights and Abigail was a week away from finishing her training when both had been told they were no longer needed.

Michael wasn't able to receive any furlough pay and has been unsuccessful in trying to find another job.

"I just feel I'm useless to everyone like I don't wanna get out of bed for instance. A lot of jobs I've been applying for they're either ignoring me or they're just taking no notice. To not have a job for so long almost feels like I'm on another planet."

Abigail's fortunate her boyfriend has a stable delivery job, she's managed to find other work but money is still a struggle,

"We did consider moving up north. It's the continuous cycle of worry, anger, being scared, frustration. We're in a lot more debt because we've had to borrow money or take loans out to stay afloat."

Tina Carter is homeless after struggling financially. She had a stroke so had to give up job as a bus driver. Finding a work has been tough.

When you're having to cope on your own and deal with the's very difficult.

Tina Carter, unemployed

Tina has been living at Crawley Open House, a charity which has already seen an increased number of people needing support.

The organisation, who provide beds to rough sleepers, are also handing out around 50 parcels a week.

Charlie Arratoon, who is in charge at Open House, said,

"These are everyday people that go to work, live in council or local authority accommodation or own their own house. It's not someone that sits in a shop doorway it's not your usual picture of homelessness.

Charlie believes her organisation has not seen the full economic impact of coronavirus yet.

"I don't think we'll begin to see that for the next six to nine months, perhaps we will see it in the new year.

"Up until September the courts weren't dealing with eviction. Anyone who has lost their home may not have been evicted yet.

Stephanie Swain runs a hair and beauty salon in Crawley

Stephanie Swain's hair and beauty salon survived the first lockdown but business has dwindled since she was able to reopen.

A lot of clients were either cabin crew or worked for Gatwick Airport.

As she prepares to close again on Thursday she's calling for additional support to help with rent and says fellow salon owners in the area are feeling the same woes,

"I'm in a group with lots of owners of different salons and everyone is really really struggling and feel like there is not enough support out there. Not only are we not getting the money but there is so much stress running a business like this, people are starting to give up."

Aviation is not the only industry feeling the pandemic's economic impact

Once upon a time getting a job in Crawley would be pretty straightforward but now that's not so easy.

Paul Scrivens is Commercial Director at lovelocaljobs and says the nature of the jobs being advertised has changed,

"There's a lot more part-time and flexible vacancies being offered.

"There's a lot of businesses based here in the healthcare, in the digital section, in the tech section where there are those skilled and professional jobs but for some reason there's always been a lower level of expectation in Crawley amongst the employment community.

"They haven't had the capacity to tap into those and that needs to change."

  • The domino effect

Mark Harrison doesn't live in Crawley but he relate to how some people are struggling.His private vehicle hire business based in Ashford relies heavily on airport runs to Gatwick and this year he is 40,000 miles down.

Mark Harrison, Ashford Executive Cars

"You either survive on very little income or you walk away from a business you've put everything into it. You're walking away from people you've known for fifteen years. It is a business relationship but it is a very personal experience after that time".

  • Has there been enough support?

Throughout this pandemic there have been calls, from MPs, councillors and residents for a specific package of measures for the aviation industry, alongside measures such as furlough.

Businesses in the area have been loaned £92 million and granted £12.69 in in business support.

A Government Spokesperson said,

We recognise the challenges facing the aviation sector

Government spokesperson

"We’ve put in place an unprecedented package of economic support to protect jobs and incomes that will continue over the months ahead. In addition, we’re working with the sector through our dedicated International Aviation Taskforce to support its recovery."Crawley's was built in the shadow of an airport's success but the pandemic's impact on Gatwick has left people here exposed to the full economic impact of a health crisis.

  • Glimmer of hope

How do you stay positive during a pandemic?

These are the thoughts of young people who are involved with Crawley community service.