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Gatwick Airport Reports 80% less passengers in 2020

Gatwick Airport is the UK’s second busiest airport after Heathrow and experienced a total of 46,576,473 passengers in 2019, as well as 284,987 aircraft movements.

However, as a result of COVID-19Gatwick Airport has seen passenger levels plummet during 2020. Gatwick’s Chief Executive, Stewart Wingate, confirmed that the airport’s passenger levels plummeted by as much as 80% between July – September in comparison to 2019 due to COVID-19 travel restrictions.

The financial struggles experienced by Gatwick Airport led Mr Wingate to confirm that up to 40% of airport staff would lose their jobs.

Mr Wingate stated that it could take around five years for Gatwick Airport to recover from the financial losses of COVID-19.

Additionally, he expressed his belief that the aviation industry would kick-start in 2021 following the rollout of the Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines, with passenger volumes rising considerably once again.

The UK has conducted a successful vaccination campaign so far, with over 30 million people now having received the first dose of the vaccine. That being said, it remains unclear as to when Brits will be able to travel abroad once again.

It is currently illegal for UK citizens to travel abroad without a legitimate reason, as it was reported last week that rule-breakers could be fined GBP 5,000.

In a bid to provide a boost to the travel industry, Gatwick airport opened up a COVID-19 testing facility last year, hoping to provide fast and accurate test results to travellers.

Gatwick Airport

Gatwick Airport’s COVID-19 testing facility

In November, Gatwick Airport opened up its COVID-19 testing facility within the South Terminal car park for passengers required to provide a negative Covid-19 test certificate up to 96 hours before travel. At the time, providing a valid, negative test negated the need for travellers to enter an unnecessary isolation period.

Airport passengers and airport staff are being charged GBP 60 for a test, whilst the general public will pay GBP 99.

Mr Wingate stated that the COVID-19 testing facility allowed passengers to be compliant with the current destination requirements that many of Gatwick’s airlines fly to, including EasyJet, British Airways and Tui.

Testing, conducted by ExpressTest, had experienced significant delays in providing available testing slots and results to passengers due to incredibly high demand, with many complaining that they had to delay travel plans as a result. Nick Markham from ExpressTest apologised for the delays and confirmed that testing capacity would soon be increased.

Heathrow Airport also opened up a testing facility last October as British Airways announced a voluntary testing programme for passengers in a bid to replace the need for a quarantine period.

Gatwick Airport revenue losses

During the first half of 2020, Gatwick Airport confirmed a loss of GBP 343 million as a result of COVID-19.

The significant financial loss caused the airport to slash capital expenditure over GBP 300m within the next two years and reduce its costs by over GBP 100m, whilst over than 70% of employees remained on furlough.

Other major UK airports have also struggled financially due to the coronavirus pandemic, including Heathrow, the UK’s busiest airport.

During Q2, Heathrow Airport reported that they had experienced a GBP 1 billion loss, with passenger levels plummeting by up to 96% in comparison to the previous year. In 2019, Heathrow experienced 80,890,031 passengers, as well as 478,059 aircraft movements.

Heathrow’s Chief Executive, John Holland-Kaye, stated that the government were playing ‘quarantine roulette’ as a result of lack of testing facilities within airports. In response to the newly introduced testing centres within Heathrow and Gatwick, Mr Holland-Kaye stated that this was a step in the right direction for the aviation industry but not the end solution.

When will holidays abroad be allowed again?

During April, the Global Travel Taskforce will unveil plans of how travel abroad from the UK could resume. It has been suggested that a four-tier traffic light system could be put in place to help open up international travel.

Green countries would mean no travel restrictions would be put in place, whilst yellow/amber would require testing or vaccination certificates to be presented. Red countries would represent high risk areas, with entry not permitted.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s roadmap out of lockdown currently states that the earliest travel abroad could be allowed is 17th May. Government ministers seem doubtful that this will be the case, however.

Culture Secretary, Oliver Dowden, recently spoke of the significant challenges involved with reopening international travel. The previous concern was that COVID-19 variants from other countries would make their way over to the UK if travel abroad resumed. However, he stated that this is less likely to be the case this time around given the rise in coronavirus vaccines.

John Holland Kaye recently stated “the UK’s progress in the global vaccine race coupled with advances in testing, means that ministers no longer need to choose between public health and the economy – a risk-based approach to international travel will allow us to protect them both.”

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