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Gatwick expects 3 million monthly passengers as losses narrow

Gatwick is expecting 3 million passengers a month this summer as the easing of travel restrictions and the return of takeoff and landing slot rules help the airport recover from its pandemic slump.

The airport reported narrower losses of just over £1m a day in 2021, down £95m on 2020 to £371m, despite passenger numbers falling further to 6.3 million last year.

Gatwick is expecting more than 30 million passengers in 2022, operating at 85% capacity in the summer, aided by the return of slot rules that ensure airlines use their alloted takeoff and landing slots at least 70% of the time.

The south terminal, mothballed to save money, will reopen at the end of March, when British Airways will also return to short-haul flying from the airport.

Gatwick’s biggest airline customer, easyJet, plans to expand to record levels with 120 routes this summer, partly using slots leased from BA.

The airport said the decision to reinstate slot regulations, paused in 2020, would “restore discipline” and be more efficient and economically beneficial for the region but denied it would lead to “ghost flights”.

The chief executive, Stewart Wingate, said load factors on flights were already high before the new rules came into effect, adding: “My biggest worry has been having a ghost terminal.”

He said the end of travel restrictions had increased demand, and businesses at the airport had been recruiting for more than 2,000 new posts over recent months.

Wingate said the airport was “very alert” to the risks from the Russian invasion of Ukraine but said at present, “in terms of our business, presuming that the conflict doesn’t escalate, there is a very small direct exposure. On oil prices, the majority of large airlines are well hedged.”

The airport completed a public consultation into developing its standby runway for routine use at the end of 2021, the next step on a path that it hopes will lead to the government approving its capacity expansion in 2024.

Wingate said the airport hoped to exceed pre-pandemic business levels in 2025. He added: “Fully restoring consumer confidence will take time and I urge the government to make 2022 the year when all travel restrictions are removed completely, including the unpopular passenger locator form.”

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