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Norwegian Air has today begun proceedings to shut its short-haul base at Gatwick Airport, with 259 jobs at risk of being lost.

The airline said the move would not affect its flight schedule out of the airport.

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The low-cost carrier employs 1,142 people at the Sussex airport, which is the UK’s second largest.

Most of these are employed in Norwegian’s long-haul crew base, which will remain untouched except for a tiny number of jobs, City A.M. understands.

A spokesperson for the Nordic carrier said: “The COVID-19 pandemic continues to severely impact our business and this prolonged crisis is far from over. 

“These unprecedented circumstances that we now find ourselves in require us to review the London Gatwick crew base in line with current business needs and the associated costs going forward. 

“We have entered into consultation with our crew colleagues and unions based in the in UK and will look to find common solutions and mitigate redundancies.”

Norwegian has been hammered by the coronavirus pandemic, which has destroyed international air travel.

Passenger numbers in September were 90 per cent down on last year, the airline revealed earlier this week, as quarantine restrictions kept passenger demand at record lows.

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It is currently in negotiations with officials in Norway for a second bailout deal, which could involve the government taking a state in the carrier.

An earlier rescue package saw ministers pump £250m into the carrier, which many analysts had said was on rocky ground even before the pandemic due to its hefty debt pile.

Pilots’ union Balpa said that the news was further evidence that UK aviation was “in a death spiral”.

General Secretary Brian Strutton said: “This news is devastating for those affected and BALPA will do everything within its power to support its members, to avoid compulsory redundancies, reduce the number of employees to be dismissed and mitigate the consequences of any dismissals.

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“These latest proposed job losses are yet more evidence of the devastating effect Covid-19 is having on global aviation. If the government fails to act to support the sector, we will see more job losses as airlines are decimated.

“The government promised weeks ago that it would look urgently at measures like airport Covid-19 testing to help retore passenger confidence, but we are still to see any action in this area. The government has let down the industry, its employees and the travelling public in this regard.”

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