Gatwick has hailed a return to “business as usual” — a couple of hours before easyJet cancelled 26 flights at Britain’s second busiest airport because of staff shortages.
Yesterday morning the airport’s chief executive, Stewart Wingate, said the chaos that had blighted travel was behind it, and there was no need to extend its cap on flights beyond the month. Like Heathrow, Gatwick has imposed limits on flights as it struggles to cope with a rebound in travel after the pandemic. On Monday, British Airways announced more capacity cuts, removing roughly 10,000 short-haul flights to and from Heathrow between late October and March.
Airports and airlines imposed swingeing job cuts during the pandemic and have now found it difficult to recruit enough baggage handlers and other workers.
But Wingate insisted that with the school holidays coming to an end, the worst at Gatwick had passed. “We are now very much operating business as usual and do not see any reason to extend the capacity declaration,” he said. “The unprecedented growth in traffic led to short-term operational issues in June. However, our decisive early action to limit the airport’s capacity in the crucial school holiday period of July and August has ensured passengers have experienced reliable flight timetables over the summer months.”
With unfortunate timing, easyJet cancelled more than a dozen flights because of staff sickness in the control tower. Air traffic control staff are not directly employed by Gatwick.
“Restrictions were put on the number of flights that can arrive into Gatwick due to late-notice staff absence in the airport’s control tower,” an airport spokesman said. “Some flights throughout the day may unfortunately be delayed or cancelled as a result. Gatwick would like to apologise for any inconvenience this will cause to our passengers.”
Wingate, who was announcing the airport’s profit figures, said the boom in demand for overseas travel has helped the airport bounce back from the pandemic. In the second quarter of the year demand was at 74 per cent of pre-pandemic levels.
More than 13 million passengers travelled through the airport in the six months to the end of June. It now expects 32.8 million passengers to use the airport this year. Revenue hit £291.5 million in the six months, while post-tax profit reached £50.6 million.
“We still have some considerable way to go, but strong demand has fast-tracked Gatwick’s recovery from the pandemic, particularly in the last quarter since all UK travel restrictions were removed,” Wingate said.
“Air traffic volumes have reflected this strong passenger demand and have bounced back to around 75 per cent of pre-Covid levels. Despite some broad economic uncertainty, we are also looking forward to a successful second half to the year.”