Gatwick Airport’s CEO remains optimistic for recovery
Following an unprecedented year of impacted revenue streams and collapses in passenger demand, Stewart Wingate, CEO of Gatwick Airport, has said that he is optimistic for the airport’s recovery.
Despite an encouraging start to 2020, passenger numbers at London Gatwick Airport (LGW) fell by 78 per cent by 31 December 2020 due to the impact of COVID-19. The airport remained open throughout the pandemic, but all revenue streams were impacted and the collapse in passenger demand led to a £465.5 million loss for the 12-month period and negative Earnings Before Interest, Taxes, Depreciation, and Amortisation (EBITDA) at -£25.1 million.
Decisive and swift action was taken to protect the financial strength of the business. A strategic reduction in capital expenditure resulted in the deferral of over £380 million from investments originally planned in 2020 and 2021. Operating costs were reduced by over £140 million in 2020 through a variety of actions, including restructuring and reducing staffing levels by over 40 per cent, re-negotiating contracts and consolidating all air traffic and passengers into one terminal.
To improve liquidity, in April 2020, Gatwick secured a £300 million loan with a consortium of banks, and the company has drawn £250 million under the Bank of England’s Covid Corporate Financing Facility. The group has been granted a waiver to address breaches in Financial Covenants at 31 December 2020. As of December 2020, Gatwick had available liquidity of £573 million to meet its operating cashflows, planned investment levels and interest payments for 2021.
A priority continues to be protecting the health and wellbeing of employees and passengers, with new staff COVID-19 testing measures being implemented alongside one of the UK’s first airport National Health Service (NHS) testing sites in 2020 and walk-in and drive-through private testing facilities also being made available at Gatwick for staff and the public.
Gatwick Airport’s Chief Executive Officer, Stewart Wingate, said: “It will come as no surprise that, like any other international airport, the negative impact of COVID-19 resulted in a financial loss for the business last year which sadly also saw us need to reduce our workforce by over 40 per cent. I would like to thank all our staff, including those that have left us, for all of their hard work and determination throughout these difficult times.”
He added: “Despite the immediate challenges, I remain optimistic that Gatwick will recover and retain its position as one of Europe’s leading international gateways and an economic driver for the UK’s south east region. Due to our swift actions, the business remains resilient and robust, with our focus on ensuring that we are best placed to take advantage of a return to international travel this summer.”
“We are heartened by the UK government’s COVID-19 response plan and look forward to working with the Global Travel Taskforce to develop a framework that can facilitate greater international travel as soon as possible. This will require the UK government working with other governments to ease the current crippling travel restrictions and ensure a consistent, reciprocal approach for all travellers in time for this summer. Restoring passenger confidence and offering COVID-19-safe air travel while minimising the need for cost prohibitive testing and disruptive quarantine measures is vital. Before air travel recovery begins, and in order for the industry to continue to protect as many jobs as possible, we also need the UK government to provide further support by extending the furlough scheme for a few more months and providing business rate relief, as airports in Scotland have been afforded, for the current financial year,” Wingate concluded.