Swissport has announced that it is to cut more than half of its UK workforce with the loss of up to 4,556 jobs.

The baggage handling and operations company employs workers including check-in and baggage handling staff at airports across the UK, including Heathrow and Gatwick. Chief executive Jason Holt said the company was having to reduce the size of its workforce to survive the collapse in demand due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Swissport has forecast revenues which are almost 50 per cent lower than last year due to the crisis. In a message to the company’s 8,500 staff, Holt said: “We must do this to secure the lifeline of funding from lenders and investors to protect as many jobs as possible in the UK and Ireland.”

“Never seen anything like COVID-19 in out lifetimes”

“It’s true that we’ve seen tough times before – volcanic cloud, 9/11, the financial crisis – and we’ve weathered these. But this time it’s different. We have never seen anything like COVID-19 in our lifetimes.”

“We are now facing a long period of uncertainty and reduced flight numbers, along with significant changes taking place to the way people travel and the way goods move around the world. There is no escaping the fact that the industry is now smaller than it was, and it will remain so for some time to come.”

Industry association Airlines UK repeated its call for targeted government assistance for the sector in response to Swissport’s announcement.

Chief executive Tim Alderslade told the BBC: “The need for a stimulus package of measures for the industry is now even more vital.”

The government is expected to make an announcement on Monday on international travel corridors, which would allow people from the UK to visit selected countries without having to face a 14-day quarantine on their return.

Mr Alderslade welcomed that prospect, but added: “The government needs to do much, much more to help a sector very much on its knees.”

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