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As East Midlands Airport plans job cuts in its passenger areas, cargo operation gears up for busiest Christmas ever

East Midlands Airport could be in for busiest Christmas for its cargo services – despite a 90 per cent drop in passenger numbers.

The airport’s freight operations and logistics firms around it are reported to be creating more new jobs right now than any other part of the region.

It comes at the same time that the Leicestershire airport is in consultation about 51 job cuts in its passenger operations.

It is part of wide ranging redundancies announced by the airport’s parent group, which could see 465 jobs go at Manchester Airport and 376 roles cut at London Stansted.

A total of 892 jobs are at risk at the three airports after passenger confidence in air travel was devastated by the pandemic.

At the same time the airport has seen a 20 per cent growth in the amount of freight going through it, due to two factors.

Passenger flight cancellations have led to less space for cargo in their bellies, increasing demand for dedicated express freight operators such as DHL, UPS and FedEx

On top of that people have been shopping more online.

Speaking during at an East Midlands Chamber round table event to discuss the impact of the pandemic on the local economy, Ioan Reed-Aspley, head of external communications at the airport said while passenger flights during the day were struggling, dedicated freight flights continued to do well.

Mr Reed-Aspley told the group: “By night it is a truly global operation and plays an absolutely vital role not just for this region but for the country too in terms of getting goods to and from countries and markets all around the world.

“It is that side of the business which continues to thrive and prosper and has even more so in recent months.

“With lockdown, more and more people are shopping on line and the current crisis has urged those who perhaps hadn’t embraced it into a position where they are more than ever.

“The key season for the airport’s cargo operation is the autumn and winter but the specialist operators on-site have been operating at peak season levels since about June.

“So we are bracing ourselves for possibly the busiest ever Christmas.”

He said that was helping accelerate growth among big warehousing and distribution companies around the airport, notably on the huge SEGRO East Midlands Gateway Logistics Park to the north.

The site, which is next to junction 24 of the M1 and has its own rail freight interchange, has already attracted the likes of Amazon, XPO logistics (who work for Nestlé), Shop Direct, Kuehne & Nagel and Games Workshop.

Mr Reed-Aspley said: “With that comes lots of jobs.

“We are in a difficult economic climate at the moment and the airport is not immune from that.

“We are having to scale back our passenger operation in response to the demand, but across the airport site there are probably more jobs available than there are jobs at risk at the moment because the likes of DHL and UPS are recruiting for their peak season.

“Similarly so too are Marks and Spencer and Aldi who have big distribution operations not far away.

“A cluster of logistics operators have emerged around the airport, some of whom directly benefit from the airport and others who see that happening in the future.

“So the small corner of North West Leicestershire which we occupy is probably the fastest growing jobs area in the whole of the East Midlands.

“There are about 9,500 people employed across the airport site, and many of those jobs are directly linked to the airport operation, whether that’s through the logistics industry or hospitality in the hotels.

“In the SEGRO site up to another 7-8,000 jobs will be created eventually, so we are getting on for the best part of 18,000 or maybe 20,000 jobs in the not too distant future.

“If anything it will continue growing. The nudge has been so great that life is not likely to return to old ways of shopping.

“Of course, let’s not forget there are people who enjoy going into shops and the retail sector has to respond to the fluctuation in demand, but so many people are now shopping online.”

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