Northern Ireland (NI) based company Thompson Aero Seating has revealed plans to lay off up to 500 people.

The decision was taken as the firm faces ‘extreme challenges as a result of Covid-19’.

The pandemic has severely damaged the global aviation industry with travel restrictions, partial country lockdowns and grounded fleets continuing to impact revenues of airlines and aircraft manufacturers.

A Thompson Aero spokesperson said the global demand for aircraft seating has reduced significantly.

The company specialises in designing and manufacturing premium class, fill-flat bed airlines seatings. Some of its customers include Aer Lingus, American Airlines and Qantas.

The company has sites in Portadown and Banbridge. Its parent company is the China Aviation Industry Corporation.

Unite regional officer for Thompson Aero Seating Kieran Ellison said: “Today’s announcement will come as a very severe blow to this workforce who only weeks ago [in March] suffered more than 430 job-losses, mostly among agency staff, at the onset of the Covid-19 crisis.

“Thompson Aero Seating currently employs a core workforce of approximately 1,200 and at least a further 100 casual workers at its sites at Portadown and Banbridge – it is a regionally significant employer.

“If these workers can be furloughed instead of made redundant it offers some hope to safeguard jobs until demand in the aerospace sector improves. The Northern Ireland Executive must now act to defend these workers’ jobs.”