Unite, the UK’s largest trade union, which represents airport workers in addition to other sectors, has warned of chaos at UK airports this Christmas as a result of Scandinavian baggage carrier Aviator withdrawing its services. The company is due to cease its operations by November 30 as a result of falling UK profits, potentially leaving the 1,700 British staff it employs in limbo at the four major airports where it is based: London Gatwick, Birmingham, Manchester and Newcastle.
In a statement, Unite says that Aviator has 1,200 staff at Gatwick, servicing airlines from British Airways to Virgin, and less than 200 at the other airports, working with smaller carriers. The union is concerned that there could be major disruptions, with everything from check-in to refueling affected, as well as baggage handling.
Oliver Richardson, Unite’s national officer for civil air transport, said, “We will be seeking assurances from the company, airlines, other handlers and ultimately the airports that there will be no compulsory redundancies. It’s a matter of serious concern for both our members and the traveling public that so close to Christmas most of the airlines have not announced where their baggage handling and check-in contracts are going. The airport owners and the airlines, which require these services for their planes to land and take off effectively, need to get their skates on to sort this out, without any detriment to the staff jobs, pay and conditions, otherwise Christmas travel chaos is on the cards.”
A representative from Aviator responded to The Telegraph newspaper, adding, “We note the statement issued by Unite and completely understand the desire for more clarity on plans. We’re in discussions with a large number of stakeholders, including airlines, to ensure that this process is orderly and well managed. Our focus is on maximizing employment and meeting the needs of our airline customers while minimizing disruption.”