Heathrow plans to furlough its entire senior management team except its chief executive in the latest sign that an imminent recovery for the pandemic-hit aviation industry is unlikely.
The UK's biggest airport also plans more job losses under new voluntary redundancy schemes, according to emails sent by Heathrow's executives on Friday that Sky News first reported. Staff must express interest by next Thursday.
All Heathrow management other than chief executive John Holland-Kaye face being furloughed for at least four weeks in total between the beginning of December and the end of March, when the government's wage subsidy scheme is due to end.
"Reduced workload in some teams will mean that some colleagues will also continue to be asked to take longer periods on furlough," chief people officer Paula Stannett told employees in an email.
A Heathrow spokesman said Covid continued to have a devastating impact on its business.
"With a second lockdown grounding travel ... we have no choice but to implement further cost-saving measures. We’re already losing over £5m a day, and regrettably, we must now take further action to close the gap so that Heathrow can continue to provide quality employment to tens of thousands of people after the pandemic.”
Heathrow - whose owners include Spain's Ferrovial, the Qatar wealth fund, and China Investment Corp - reported a £1.1bn pre-tax loss for the first half of the year, as surging infection cases and strict lockdowns have curtailed global travel.
Passenger numbers fell 82pc in October, compared to last year, while cargo flights are less than half normal levels. Britain's second lockdown has dampened any hope of a recovery this year.
Meanwhile, the sector has failed to convince the government to implement a virus testing regime at airports that could reduce the time of quarantine and boost demand for air travel.
In October Heathrow was overtaken by Paris Charles de Gaulle as Europe's busiest airport.
"A well-designed passenger testing regime implemented quickly would have ensured that those coming into the country were at a low-risk of infecting others, provided passengers with more confidence to travel and, most importantly, allowed the engines of our economy to begin firing again much earlier," Mr Holland-Kaye wrote in The Telegraph this month.
"Here we are seven months later heading into a new national lockdown that will all but close international travel".
Workers at the airport - including security, baggage staff and engineers - are due to strike across four days in December, following unresolved disputes between Unite union and the airport over reduced salaries and pension contributions.