Optimism for future of Gatwick Airport despite £465m loss and near halving of workforce

‘It’s been a year like no other but there’s cause for optimism’ - that’s the message that’s gone out today from Gatwick Airport chief executive Stewart Wingate.

He said he hoped people would be jetting off again from Gatwick by May.

He spoke out after publication of the airport’s annual results which showed that Gatwick made a £465.5 million loss last year. Nearly half the airport’s workforce lost their jobs and passenger numbers fell by 78 per cent.

The first few months of the year started well but the coronavirus crisis hit hard in March when the airport experienced ‘a near complete removal of routes and passenger volumes.’

Gatwick Airport

The previous year had seen profits of £170 million.

Now, says Stewart Wingate, Gatwick’s focus is firmly on the future. While expecting air traffic volumes to remain low in March and April, he expects more people will be flying out of the airport by May 17.

“We can then hopefully expect to see international travel open up again, particularly across Europe.”

He said he expected the vaccination rollout and vaccination certification would lead to more air travel.

And he offered hope to the thousands who had lost their jobs since the start of the pandemic. “We’re committed to seeing the airport get back into business at the earliest opportunity. I have personally worked with the Government to put recovery in place and to see passengers return.

“If that happens it will enable me to call back the staff who, like me, rely on the airport.”

A total of 44 per cent of the workforce lost their jobs last year.

Stewart said: “I would like to thank all our staff, including those that have left us, for all their hard work and determination throughout these difficult times.

“Despite the immediate challenges I remain optimistic that Gatwick will recover and retain its position as one of Europe’s leading international gateways and an economic driver for the UK’s south east region.

“Due to our swift actions the business remains resilient and robust with our focus on ensuring we are best placed to take advantage of a return to international travel this summer.

“We are heartened by the UK Government’s Covid-19 response plan and look forward to working with the Global Travel Taskforce to develop a framework that can facilitate greater international travel as soon as possible.

“This will require the UK Government working with other Governments, to ease the current crippling travel restrictions and ensure a consistent, reciprocal approach for all travellers in time for this summer.

“Restoring passenger confidence and offering Covid-19 safe air travel while minimizing the need for cost prohibitive testing and disruptive quarantine measures is vital.

“Before air travel recovery begins, and in order for the industry to continue to protect as many jobs as possible, we also need the UK Government to provide further support by extending the furlough scheme for a few more months and providing business rate relief, as airports in Scotland have been afforded, for the current financial year.”

The start of the pandemic saw the airport put on hold £380 million worth of investment planned for the year, but plans to convert the airport’s emergency runway into full-time use are still on the cards.