Gatwick Airport joins Travel Day of Action to call on Government to safely reopen travel and provide crucial financial support

Gatwick Airport has joined other leading industry voices across the country, including airports, travel agents, pilots, tour operators and cabin crew, in calling on Government to safely reopen travel and provide vital support to the industry, as part of today’s Travel Day of Action.

Alongside Gatwick, leading bodies such as the Airport Operators Association (AOA), Airlines UK, ABTA and the British Airline Pilots Association (BALPA), are asking Government to capitalise on the vaccine rollout by safely reopening travel this summer and provide tailored financial support to businesses, ahead of the Global Travel Taskforce’s review of restrictions next week.

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The pandemic has been a catastrophe for the airports and the travel industry. Data from IATA shows that, of the 1.6m jobs in aviation, travel and tourism pre-pandemic, 860,000 have either already disappeared or are sustained only by government furlough.

Gatwick Airport departure lounge

Prior to the pandemic, Gatwick was a key driver for economy, trade and tourism in the south east, contributing £2.7bn to regional gross domestic product, supporting one in 12 jobs across the region and delivering a £7.2bn trade boost to the UK. Due to COVID-19, Gatwick has seen passenger numbers fall by 78% in 2020, resulting in staff levels being reduced by more than 40%, with up to 70% of remaining staff placed on furlough.

Without a meaningful summer season – a crucial period of the year for airports and travel companies – many thousands of livelihoods are at stake, as well as the ability for airports to recover and reconnect the UK to the world.

As part of the Travel Day of Action, which will see 800 people attending an organised lobby outside Parliament in London, with further events in Edinburgh and Belfast, Gatwick is joining calls on the UK Government to:

- Allow international travel to return safely and in a risk managed way by properly implementing the Global Travel Taskforce’s plan for a traffic-light system, by expanding the green list in line with the evidence and making restrictions more proportionate, whilst keeping a strong red list to guard against variants. Government should also capitalise on the success of the vaccine rollout by relaxing testing and quarantine requirements for fully vaccinated individuals.

- Bring forward a package of tailored financial support, including extension of furlough support, recognising that the travel sector’s ability to trade and generate income is much slower than first anticipated and more gradual than for businesses in the domestic economy.

The Government is expected to provide an update on the traffic light list within the next week, and a review of the requirements for international travel is due on 28 June.

Gatwick Airport, Chief Executive Officer, Stewart Wingate said: “Given the extra time the recent delay to the lifting of lockdown allows, we urge the Government to use the time to put a simple, effective and internationally coordinated system in place so that those who have been double vaccinated can travel abroad without the need for expensive tests.

“This would help ensure summer holidays abroad can be a reality for the many people desperate to reunite with friends and family or enjoy a well-earned break and equally, provide a huge boost to the travel industry, which has been so devastatingly impacted by COVID-19.

“We also need more countries regularly added to the green list if the airport and our supply chains and businesses are to rebuild and protect as many jobs as possible. Gatwick has been a major driver for the local and regional economy for several decades, as well as supporting the wider UK economy during that time. The whole industry requires more tailored financial backing from Government if we are to rebuild successfully and ensure the UK remains a significant global player with outstanding connections to major worldwide economies.”

Airport Operators Association Chief Executive Karen Dee said: “The Government’s overly cautious approach to reopening travel has real-world consequences for the 1.6m jobs in the UK aviation and tourism industries that rely on aviation having a meaningful restart.

“Unless the Government makes a meaningful restart of aviation possible by extending the green list at the next review, moving to rapid and affordable tests for returning travellers and following the examples of the EU and the US by reducing restrictions on fully vaccinated passengers, aviation and travel are in for an extremely difficult summer.

“If the Government decides it cannot reopen travel more meaningfully, then they should stand ready to give substantial financial compensation to airports and others in aviation and tourism.

“Jobs and livelihoods in businesses across the economy that need air connectivity for their success are at risk. The Government cannot afford to let those go.”

In normal times, UK residents’ overseas travel, whether on business, for holidays, or to see family and friends, generated more than £53bn in domestic spending. In addition, the inbound industry catered for the 41 million tourists, travellers and business people arriving on our shores, spending £28.4bn in our world-class cities and attractions.