Stobart aviation division acts to mitigate easyJet blow

Warwick Brady

Stobart Group has warned of job cuts among its aviation services arm following budget carrier easyJet’s decision to close three of its operational bases.

But the Carlisle-based group said it believes the decision presents fresh opportunities, particularly for its wholly-owned Southend Airport business.

Yesterday, easyJet announced the closure of its operations at London Southend, London Stansted and Newcastle as part of a cost-cutting initiative.

Stobart Group said its aviation services business provides check-in and baggage handling to easyJet at both London Southend and London Stansted airports.

The carrier also has four aircraft based at London Southend Airport, serving 21 destinations, which carried 1.05 million passengers during the 2020 fiscal year. Stobart Group said these are leisure-focused routes which it expects to be attractive to other airlines.

As a result of the cutbacks, easyJet will cease operations from London Southend Airport on August 31, and all flights will be cancelled from September 1.

Stobart said its aviation services division will now enter a consultation process with the teams affected as part of a wider cost management programme within the aviation division.

London Southend Airport has also commenced a consultation process with its team in view of the challenges presented by COVID-19 and the resulting impact of blanket quarantine measures implemented by the UK Government, which now includes key markets such as France, Spain, Malta, the Netherlands and Portugal.

It said, as previously stated in its AGM statement on July 30, the Stobart Group board carefully stress tested the group’s liquidity position under a variety of operating scenarios at the time of its successful capital raise in June 2020.

As a result, the board remains confident in the group’s balance sheet, liquidity position and the medium-term opportunity for its key strategic London airport asset.

Stobart Group chief executive, Warwick Brady, said: “We are disappointed that easyJet has taken the decision to close its airport bases serving the North and East of London.

“However, we expect that this decision will create significant opportunity for other airlines looking to take on established, popular and profitable routes.

“London Southend Airport has a catchment area in excess of eight million people, regular direct trains from London Liverpool Street in 51 minutes and can offer a cost-efficient base of operation for airlines with an increasingly enhanced passenger experience for post-COVID-19 travel.

“Though the 2020 Summer and Winter periods will continue to be challenging, we expect passenger demand for short haul leisure flying to increase through 2021, and we are in active dialogue with airlines regarding their interest in capitalising on these well-established, profitable routes.”