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Gatwick numbers take off as chief executive calls for new runway

The Sussex airport posted an impressive 18.75 per cent increase in pre-tax profit to £127.3 million in the first half

Gatwick chief executive claimed today that the Sussex airport deserves to be “the UK’s next runway” as it benefits from a host of new routes to both Europe and emerging markets, which boosted the airport to post a 19 per cent increase in half-year profit.

The Sussex airport saw 20.8 million passengers pass through its arrival and departure halls in the six months to October, 4.4 per cent more than the same time a year ago, as expanding airline Norwegian launched 12 new routes and Vietnam Airlines ramped up the frequency of its flights.

That helped turnover to jump 10.7 per cent to £360.6 million, and pre-tax profit soar 18.75 per cent to £127.3 million. This growth made Gatwick’s chief executive Stewart Wingate adamant that “a new runway here would deliver the routes that passengers actually want at a better price”.

But rival voices in the South-East’s aviation expansion debate disagree and some claim that only Heathrow — which is a hub airport with “feeder” short haul flights helping to fill up long-haul planes — would benefit from another runway.

Gatwick has grown since December 2009, when the Competition Commission ordered it to be sold by its then owner, the former BAA. The Sussex airport is now owned by private equity fund consortium Global Infrastructure Partners, which also owns London City airport. Wingate said the consortium’s ownership had helped “turn around decades of under-investment”.

He said the airport’s £1 billion investment programme had continued, including spending £45 million on new shops in the South Terminal. But capital expenditure actually fell 12 per cent to £104.8 million in the six months. Carriers easyJet and Turkish Airlines have put on more business routes from Gatwick, which claims it now serves 45 of the top 50 EU business destinations.

“We now serve routes as diverse — and strategically important for the UK — as Moscow, Beijing, Istanbul and cities in Vietnam,” Wingate added.