Digital Covid certificate could be key to Gatwick recovery, says boss

Stewart Wingate expresses optimism for summer despite airport reporting £526m pre-tax loss

Gatwick’s boss has said a digital Covid certificate could be the “key to success” if 70% of the airport’s usual traffic is to return after May – adding that it expects to serve only a few hundred passengers and lose £1m a day until then.

London’s second airport reported a £526m pre-tax loss last year, compared with a £211m profit in 2019. Passenger numbers dropped 78% in 2020 as the pandemic hit, forcing the airport to lay off 40% of staff and mothball one of its two terminals in an effort to cut costs.

However, Stewart Wingate, the airport’s chief executive, said he was optimistic Gatwick would recover, pointing to a big increase in bookings as well as the number of flights on sale for the summer.

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Wingate said a Covid-certification system seemed inevitable, adding: “It needs to replace testing and quarantine and reduce the restrictions on people to travel. If that were to happen, Gatwick is well poised to react and respond to the pent-up demand that it undoubtedly there.”

About four-fifths of Gthe airport’s flights serve Europe, and Wingate said airlines such as easyJet, BA, and Tui all now had “significant number of seats” on sale for Gatwick flights for June and July, equating to about 80% of the numbers flown in the same period in 2019.

“The rollout of vaccinations coupled with some form of digital Covid certificate could be the key to success that would unlock travel,” he said.

Wingate said until recovery could begin, Gatwick would need UK government support through an extension of the furlough scheme and business rates relief.

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Gwyn Topham Transport correspondent

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