Virgin Atlantic decision to quit Gatwick Airport is ‘a tragedy’, says local political leaders

Gatwick: local MP Henry Smith

Virgin Atlantic’s decision to quit Gatwick Airport has been described as ‘devastating’ and ‘a tragedy’ by Crawley’s political leaders.

The town already faces the daunting prospect of having the hardest-hit workforce in the country, with a study forecasting 57 per cent of jobs at risk due to Covid-19.

The vast majority of people in Crawley work for the airport – or companies connected to it – and British Airways has already told staff that it may not re-open there after the pandemic passes.

To lose another major airline and 3,150 jobs inflicts one calamitous blow on top of another to the workforce.

Peter Lamb, leader of Crawley Borough Council, said:

“Since the lockdown began the council has been warning that many of Crawley’s industries, and aviation in particular, require government support to survive the outbreak.

“The decisions taken by BA and now Virgin are a tragedy for Crawley and a huge blow for those facing unemployment.

“Yet, analysis shows that unless the government acts now to support our local businesses, these job losses are only the beginning of what the next few months will bring.”

Unite, which represents many cabin crew and check-in staff, said it feared for the future of Gatwick ‘as a viable economic entity’.

MP Henry Smith recently joined Mr Lamb in appealing to the government for help to stop 70 years of the Crawley’s economic success being wiped out.

Describing the loss of Virgin jobs as ‘devastating’, he added:

“Last January, I warned in Parliament that should the virus become a pandemic then aviation and travel sectors would be the first to be immediately impacted and amongst the slowest to recover as confidence gradually returns.

“I’m grateful for the unprecedented level of government support in response generally but I continue to call for more specific measures to assist particularly adversely affected economies like Crawley.”

(By Karen Dunn – Local Democracy Reporter)

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