Transatlantic growth at Gatwick but furlough ending brings more uncertainty, say workers

Tap to watch a video report from ITV News Meridian's James Dunham

At Gatwick there were signs of recovery today as a new transatlantic airline landed for the first time.

Jet Blue will provide a jobs boost for the airport at a time as the whole industry tries to remain confident about its future.

Chief operating officer Joanna Geraghty says,

"We bring more travel but we also have business partners, people we employ directly."So whether it's maintenance, ground handlers, caterers or cleaners, in terms of growth and the effect airlines have on the local's great."

Jetblue will provide growth at Gatwick Credit:

With Government support from the furlough scheme ending today workers have described the worry and uncertainty that comes with working in a sector that remains heavily restricted from the pandemic.

Mark Legg, Bogdan Tocmelea and Lee Bristow all have jobs at Gatwick Airport. They are incredibly grateful to still be employed but feel the furlough scheme should've been extended.

Lee, Bogdan and Mark all work at Gatwick Credit:

Mark Legg says he faces a 'significant loss in wages'. His employer is not making any redundancies but has instead brought people back on reduced hours and that means a pay cut.

"Less money, more expenses, worse shifts, worse hours, the pressure on terms of conditions is happening during all this uncertainty.

"To lose 25% of a low wage is a huge loss to your income. It's very stressful. I think the government is not considering workers in the way they should be.

"Taking away furlough only makes it worse. The government has said on many occasions that aviation is important to the country's economy so not to support it at its time of need is crazy."

Bogdan Tocmelea believes travel restrictions need to ease, to give airlines confidence to employ staff and plan further into the future.

"Covid is not going away anywhere in the near future so I don't think five years from now much will change.

"So my question is, are we going to keep these measures for five years, ten years? Because in five years from now, in my personal opinion, we are going to be the same as we are now with a 80 to 90% vaccination rate and Covid is still here so if nothing will change, are we gonna keep the same restrictions?"

"Those restrictions prevent people travelling, it's affecting tourism, it's affecting aviation, it's affecting hotels, it's affecting a large part of our lives."

Lee Bristow understands the industry can't be supported forever but the time to remove support is not now.

"You can't have it forever but I don't think they've thought long and hard enough on the gradual process with a reduction in money given to companies."At the moment it's that not knowing, we're good for another month, we're good for another two months, people can't forecast where they are going to be."Gatwick was always characterised by a job for life, now people don't know, it's the panic."The mental health that I've seen, it's dramatic."

  • Watch: Pilot union BALPA'S acting general secretary Martin Chalk on the end of furlough

Gatwick Airport says its focus is keeping its current workforce employed through the next few months.

Jonathan Pollard, Chief Commercial Officer, describes 'furlough as the airport looks to the future,

"I think our hope is that we've had a fantastic vaccination rollout here in the UK, Europe and the US - our key markets. So our hope and our planning is that we're going to see an increase in the number of people travelling and hopefully no more redundancies.

"I think we're as confident as we've felt over the last 18 months and that's reflected in airlines putting more flights through Gatwick and more passengers travelling."

Crawley has been hit hard by the pandemic Credit: Crawley has been hit hard by the pandemic

A government spokesperson said:

"Our Plan for Jobs has supported the aviation sector since the start of the crisis with a £12 billion package that includes loans and financing, support for exporters, flexibilities with tax bills and grants for research and development.

"We’re doubling down on our plan as the economy rebounds - focusing our support on giving people the skills and opportunities they need to succeed in the jobs of tomorrow."