Tuesday 17 March 2020 5:53 pm

Gatwick chief takes 20 per cent pay cut as airport lays off 200 workers

Gatwick Airport has implemented a number of measures to protect its financial resilience in light of plummeting airline demand due to the coronavirus outbreak.

The airport is cutting 200 of its temporary staff and exploring the potential to introduce options for unpaid leave or temporary salary reductions for staff.

Read more: Covid-19: IATA calls for $200bn in state aid for beleaguered airlines

Chief executive Stewart Wingate will take a 20 per cent salary cut and will defer any bonus for the rest of the financial year, as will the rest of the senior executive team.

The announcement comes a day after Heathrow airport announced that its chief executive would forego his salary for the next three months in response to the crisis.

Operationally, measures include closing Gatwick to flights between midnight and 05.30 from today – except for emergency landings – and closing two of the airport’s six piers due to fewer passengers.

In terms of capital expenditure, the airport is deferring spending on its investment programme for the foreseeable future.

In a statement, Wingate said: “Gatwick is a resilient business, but the world has changed dramatically in recent weeks and we have been forced to take rapid, decisive action to ensure that the airport is in a strong position to recover from a significant fall in passenger numbers.

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“Significantly reduced passenger numbers are likely to be sustained, at least in the short to medium term, and I need to prepare people for the news that other serious measures are likely.”

The Gatwick boss also threw his weight behind calls from the Airport Operators’ Association warning that airports may have to shut down within weeks unless they are given government support.

The industry body’s chief executive Karen Dee said: “The UK’s airports are critical national infrastructure, fulfilling a vital public service, and are on the frontline of the Covid-19 outbreak.

“It is essential that airport businesses remain operating and are able to weather this storm, so that they can provide the connectivity which drives growth, employment and prosperity after the crisis has abated”. 

The industry has called for a package of measures including suspending business rates and other government and local governments rates and taxes on airports, deferring payments of all VAT, corporation tax and other taxes for the duration of global flight restrictions.

Read more: Heathrow boss to forego salary as coronavirus hammers airlines

Speaking in a press conference this afternoon chancellor Rishi Sunak said that a package of support for the aviation industry would be announced in the coming days.

Airlines and airports have been among the businesses worst hit by the virus outbreak, which has decimated passenger demand around the world.