Thousands of US airline catering staff are being laid off as airlines slash in-flight food services following the business slump caused by the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington
One of the largest airline catering firms, LSG Sky Chefs, is axing nearly a third of its American workforce while rival firm Gate Gourmet is making 3,000 staff redundant.
The companies have been forced to take drastic action following the decision by airlines such as American Airlines, TWA and US Airways to stop serving meals on some US domestic and Caribbean flights and to reduce food services on others.
LSG Sky Chefs, which employs more than 16,300 staff in the US, said the action was essential for its survival. The cuts will primarily hit management and administrative personnel, plus flight kitchen staff.
Chief executive Hanns Rech said the steep drop in the number of flights and load factors combined with higher security costs and the decision by airlines to cut in-flight food services had caused an "immediate and profound effect "on its business.
To further reduce costs, LSG Sky Chefs plans to close or consolidate some facilities and halt its US expansion plans.
Zurich-based Gate Gourmet, which was established in 1993, is owned by the troubled Swissair Group which is also the parent company for the airlines Swissair and Crossair. It employs nearly 30,000 staff.
A spokeswoman said most of the Gate Gourmet redundancies would affect the company's US operation, but she could not give details on whether any staff in the UK or Europe would be affected.
The company runs 156 flight kitchens in 34 countries and has more than 250 airline customers. The bulk of its operation is spread across the US and Europe, where it serves 46 and 52 destinations, respectively.
UK-based Alpha Airports has been less affected by the downturn, with chief executive Kevin Abbott claiming that business had only dropped by 4% since the terrorist attack.
But he said the company, which has contracts with British Airways and low-cost carriers including Go and Ryanair, had laid off agency staff who represent 10% of its 4,500-strong workforce.
Mr Abbott added that Alpha staff were being warned that there was a "potential for redundancies" this winter, but he refused to give a timescale.