Gatwick lost £1m per day in 2021 – but sees strong summer ahead if PLF goes

Airport boss calls for swift removal of Covid-related bureaucracy

Simon Calder
Travel Correspondent
Wednesday 09 March 2022 17:12 GMT
Going south: Gatwick’s South Terminal before the coronavirus pandemic. It is due to reopen on 27 March
Going south: Gatwick’s South Terminal before the coronavirus pandemic. It is due to reopen on 27 March (Gatwick Airport Ltd)

The UK’s second-biggest airport, London Gatwick, lost just over £1m per day on average during 2021. Yet that was an improvement on the £1.275m daily loss in 2020, even though Gatwick handled far fewer passengers.

Cost savings were achieved by moving all airlines and travellers to the smaller North Terminal.

UK lockdowns and widespread international travel restrictions led to a 38 per cent slump in passenger numbers at Gatwick in 2021: 6.3 million passengers for the year, compared with 10.2 million previously.

The corresponding figure in 2019 was 46.6 million, making Gatwick by far the busiest single-runway airport in the world. By 2021, the numbers had fallen by 84 per cent.

Yet the loss-making results were accompanied by some confidence about the future.

Gatwick’s South Terminal will reopen on 27 March, with British Airways restarting its short-haul programme with 18 aircraft on 35 routes. Wizz Air and Vueling are setting up smaller bases.

The biggest airline at the Sussex airport, easyJet, will provide even more capacity than before the coronavirus pandemic, with 79 aircraft covering 120 routes.

Stewart Wingate, chief executive of Gatwick, expressed optimism about the year ahead – providing bureaucracy is reduced.

“As it was for many airports, 2021 was a difficult year for Gatwick but, despite constantly changing travel restrictions and the emerging Omicron variant, we managed to end the year strongly and reduced our losses compared to the previous year,” he said.

“We are looking forward to welcoming back passengers in increasingly larger numbers.

“However, fully restoring consumer confidence will take time and I urge government to make 2022 the year when all travel restrictions are removed completely, including the unpopular passenger locator form.”

Leaks to the media suggest the UK’s much-criticised online form could be ditched within 10 days. It must currently be completed by all arrivals from abroad apart from those who began their journeys in Russia or Ukraine.

Looking ahead, Gatwick is proposing capacity expansion by bringing its standby runway into routine use by summer 2029 – ahead of the third runway that Heathrow airport insists will be needed.

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