From redundancy to retirement: A change of affairs for an EasyJet pilot

The coronavirus pandemic is wreaking havoc for all companies across the globe – but none more than those in the tourism industry.

Companies such as EasyJet are already feeling the effects after giving thousands of staff voluntary redundancies.

SR News spoke to former EasyJet pilot Tony Howard, who took his redundancy at the end of June, about the effects the passenger-grounding pandemic will have on the industry as a whole, and for companies like EasyJet.

EasyJet made convenient holiday air travel affordable for all – but what will be left of it and its industry after Covid?

 

“LIKE all crises, they eventually become a memory and life will eventually return to normal,” says ex-easyJet pilot Tony Howard.

“easyJet will return, but in a different way, because people won’t stop going on holiday – that will never disappear: the question is how soon and, when it does, will the prices sky-rocket and price people out? That’s the worry.

“A lot of people don’t realise the natural high you can get off going on holiday; it begins when you book it, you buy things for it and then you go – it’s all a process that some people need.

“You can’t go to Benidorm on a Zoom call, you have to get on a plane and go.”

The Covid-19 pandemic has caused chaos worldwide since early March. Businesses across the globe have failed to generate income, forcing monumental closures in all industries. In June this year, the airline operator – easyJet, pulled out of Newcastle Airport.

For many holidaymakers across the North East, this has put an end to cheap flights to different European destinations, for less than a tank of diesel would cost at your local garage.

 

“You can’t go to Benidorm on a Zoom call, you have to get on a plane and go.”

 

For others, easyJet’s businesses decision has meant the loss of jobs company-wide. Tony Howard is one of those who lost their job.

“easyJet wanted to get rid of 800 pilots within the company, there are approximately 2,000 – that’s nearly a third of their pilots,” he said.

“Our union agreed that all pilots were to work 50 per cent of their hours, basically part-time work, to avoid the job cuts, but everybody was still offered voluntary redundancy.”

“Once easyJet pulled out of Newcastle, these ‘part-time’ jobs were still offered, but in different parts of the country, meaning employees would have to pack up and move on.

“However, it isn’t just easyJet staff, it’s everyone in that airport, as it was such a big part of Newcastle. Who’s to say they haven’t made staff redundant due to easyJet’s withdrawal? All of a sudden, Greggs isn’t as busy, neither is WH Smith or the bars and restaurants: it has a negative effect on everything.”

Passengers wearing face covering queue to check in their luggages at the easyJet desk in Ibiza international airport, Spain, in August.

 

Tony decided to take his voluntary redundancy as he is approaching retirement age.

“It made total sense for me to take my redundancy, I’m 60 years old and approaching retirement, so I’m not really affected by it, but a lot of my colleagues are, which is really sad.

“I had a great time flying to some of Europe’s hotspots, such as Malaga and Krakow – I’ve been very lucky to have had this job.”

An easyJet flight takes-off from London Gatwick on June 15, as the airline restarted operations for the first time in 11 weeks since grounding all planes on March 30th as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

 

Of course, it is nothing but hard work that allowed Tony to become a pilot and enjoy the memories he will cherish. One-night stop-overs in various cities with other members of staff, days off in the sun … and even some golf.

“There was a hotel we used to stay at in Belfast and it was situated on a golf course,” he says. “I’m an avid golfer myself, so that obviously appealed to me, but we couldn’t slog our clubs around.

“One day I found out British Airways staff used the same resort and they actually provided clubs for their pilots and staff … and us. Looking back, we shouldn’t have done it, but we only wanted nine holes! Sometimes needs must.”

After becoming a commercial pilot in 1989, Tony worked for Glasgow Flying Company, as an instructor, before moving on to flying a private jet for a Scottish businessman. He then got a job at easyJet in 1997, when the company began to expand.

easyJet were renowned for their cheap deals to parts of Europe, allowing people who wouldn’t usually go on holiday to do just that.

“They revolutionised the airline industry; people in the UK would probably go on holiday once a year but now people can go as many times as they want, even for weekend breaks, at very affordable prices.”

It really is a question of if and when will these low-price flights return, but right now, it seems as if it’s a while away yet.

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