Gatwick airport is axing 200 jobs and cutting the pay of bosses by 20% as it battles to cope with the coronavirus pandemic.

It said it has taken the “very difficult decision” to terminate the employment of 200 staff employed on temporary fixed-term contracts and contractors.

“We are consulting with employees on further measures to reduce near-term operating costs by exploring the potential to introduce options for unpaid leave or temporary salary reductions for staff,” said the airport’s statement.

Stewart Wingate, Gatwick’s chief executive, and his executive team will take a 20% salary cut and waive any bonus for the current financial year.

It said the outbreak has had an “unprecedented impact” on the global aviation industry, with its airlines – including easyJet, British Airways, Norwegian Airlines, Virgin Atlantic and Tui – making substantial cuts in their capacity over the next two months.

The airport is also deferring spending on its investment programme for the foreseeable future.

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Wingate said: “Gatwick is a resilient business, but the world has changed dramatically in recent weeks and we have been forced to take rapid, decisive action to ensure that the airport is in a strong position to recover from a significant fall in passenger numbers.

“We must all play our part in helping the airport recover and both myself and our executive board will take a significant pay cut to help reduce costs.

“We also very much regret having to make this difficult decision to reduce our staff numbers and I would like to thank everyone for the contribution they made to the business.

“Significantly reduced passenger numbers are likely to be sustained, at least in the short to medium term, and I need to prepare people for the news that other serious measures are likely.

“We also strongly urge the government to provide support in order to protect the business and the contribution it makes to the region and wider economy.”