COVID-19: Government failing to ‘take advantage of its world-leading vaccination programme’, Gatwick Airport says | Business News

COVID-19: Government failing to ‘take advantage of its world-leading vaccination programme’, Gatwick Airport says | Business News

Gatwick Airport has accused the government of failing to take advantage of the UK’s “world-leading” coronavirus vaccination programme while revealing “very low” passenger numbers.

The UK’s second-largest airport said it handled just 569,000 people during the first six months of 2021 and made a loss of almost £245m over the period despite operating costs being reduced by a third.

It said that had been aided by its decision to keep its South Terminal shut since June 2020, pending a pick-up in demand.

Staff costs were just shy of 50% lower, the airport reported, reflecting a restructuring that was completed at the end of last year that saw more its workforce almost halve to just 1,750 staff – with some of the 1,550 affected leaving of their own accord.

It has half its workers still on furlough.

Gatwick, like Heathrow earlier this week, said its problems were a result of the government’s COVID travel policies which, it argued, were an own-goal.

“With over 75% of UK adults double-vaccinated, the UK government needs to take advantage of its world-leading vaccination programme to improve passenger confidence in international travel by substantially simplifying its current travel requirement rules.

“The UK is in danger of continuing to lag behind Europe and the US whose much simpler travel rules are enabling passengers to travel more freely and enjoy much needed breaks and reunions with family and friends.

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Passengers respond to latest travel changes

“The UK aviation recovery is far behind countries in Europe such as France and Germany whose travel bookings are on average over 50% of pre-pandemic levels whereas in the UK it is sitting at approximately 16%.”

The airport – owned by VINCI Airports and Global Infrastructure Partners – said there should be no test requirements for travellers from countries on the UK’s green travel list or double-vaccinated travellers from amber nations.

Passengers queue at check-in desks at Gatwick Airport
Gatwick saw an uplift in passenger numbers during July but they remained 90% down on pre-pandemic levels

It also demanded single lateral flow testing for non-vaccinated passengers from an amber country.

Gatwick said that while demand had picked up in July, as restrictions eased further, passenger levels remained 90% down on pre-pandemic levels.

The airport, which lost £466m in 2020, said that it had £779m of liquidity including £624m of cash to meet its needs for the next 12 months but it remained in discussions with its lenders about meeting crucial financial covenants.

Chief executive Stuart Wingate added: “I remain certain that Gatwick will recover and as a business we are financially and operationally well placed for that.”

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