GMB Union Warns That Eight Regional Airports are at Risk in the Wake of Flybe’s Collapse

(Photo: Theo Moye)

The GMB trade union, which represents more than 631,000 members spanning almost all of the UK’s industrial sectors, has said eight regional airports face closure in the wake of the Flybe collapse.

It stated that, between them, the airports directly employ at least 1,000 people and those direct jobs support at least a further 794 in the supply chain and wider economy. It believes that the true figure is likely much higher as reported figures only cover direct employment by airports’ owning entities.

The union said the airports – see table below – are deemed at risk because more than 50% of their scheduled departures in 2019 were Flybe services.

The GMB has called on the Government to implement a five-point regional airport rescue plan:

  • An explicit commitment to take whatever steps are required to enable all regional airports can function and survive throughout the coronavirus crisis and beyond
  • Emergency financial support for directly and indirectly affected workers to prevent hardship and protect livelihoods
  • Subsidies for socially necessary routes to secure vital regional connectivity
  • Additional funding for surface transport links (rail and road)
  • Support for local authorities with funding for airport development plans (including for municipal ownership where locally supported)

It noted that the UK’s previous chancellor of the exchequer, Sajid Javid, had previously pledged to “level up” regional economic performance in next week’s Budget – before his surprise departure from Government last month.

Nadine Houghton, GMB national officer, commented: “GMB is calling on the Government to step in and protect the regional airports. These hubs are vital parts of the UK economic infrastructure that communities and regional economies rely on. Without them economic disparities will widen, but now they face closure.

“Those workers directly affected by the collapse of Flybe and in the supply-chain need financial support to prevent hardship and protect livelihoods.

“We urgently need subsidies for socially necessary routes, funding for transport links and support for local authorities who want to develop airport plans.

“Other airlines have said they will pick up the domestic routes in the wake of Flybe’s collapse – what is the Government doing to do?

“Aviation jobs and supply chain jobs in airports offer decent jobs in struggling regional economies where gig economy jobs are becoming the norm. Ministers have previously promised the levelling up of regions but are instead presiding over a race to the bottom.

“We will be working with our members and employers to ensure our jobs are protected during this dangerous moment for regional aviation.”


Airports highlighted by the GMB

Airport % Flybe flights in 2019 Direct employment Supported employment
Anglesey 100
Southampton 95 126 101
Belfast 79.5 69 55
Exeter 78 310 248
Newquay 65.9 194 155
Wick 58.7 *  
Jersey 57.4
Cardiff 51.8 293 234
Total   992 794

– Data not held

* * Highlands and Islands Airport Limited employs 620 people, not broken down between airports


GMB analysis of Companies House filings and ONS Input-Output employment multipliers. Flybe flights information taken from Cirium data.