'Furlough has been a lifeline for this airport' - Gatwick Airport chief says industry is recovering but is still heavily impacted by pandemic

Gatwick Airport's chief commercial officer as called the Furlough Scheme, which ends today, a lifeline and was hopefuly the government would extend it for their sector.

The aviation industry is one of the hardest hit sectors during the pandemic and goverment figures show how hard Gatwick and the surrounding areas have been hit.

The £70bn job retention scheme was introduced to allow employers to contact HMRC for a grant to cover 80% of the wages (up to a total of £2,500 per month) of employees who are not working but are “furloughed” and kept on payroll, rather than being dismissed.

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Gatwick Airport's chief commercial officer Jonathan Pollard

Even though the scheme has ended, Gatwick and Crawley as a town is still struggling to get back on it's feet even though greenshoots are showing.

Speaking at the launch of jetBlue's new flights to New York from Gatwick, the airport's chief commercial officer Jonathan Pollard emphasised how important the scheme for tem and the industry as a whole.

He said: "Furlough has been a lifeline for this airport for 18 months.

"The fact that it is coming to an end today, we were hopeful the government might extend some sector-specific measures.

"The aviation industry, while recovering, is still heavily impacted, far more than other sectors, so our hope was it might be extended.

"But the reality now is our focus is on making sure we see events like today [jetBlue launch] happen more frequently.

"We can see there is more travel demand established. We do call on the government to ease restrictions more by removing the passenger location forms, removing all al testing for vaccinated passengers but also reintroduce some of the rules that relates to slots that are important at this airport in particular."

Mr Pollard also said how important Gatwick is to the surroung areas, particularly Crawley. He said: "This airport is the community.

"I saw figures last year that showed Crawley was a stand out in terms of being an individual town that has been so dramatically impacted.

"Aviation has been hit disproportionality to everything else and then that is over indexed in terms of the local community impact that we have seen in and around Gatwick."