Gatwick expects 3 million passengers per month this summer as relaxation of travel bans and return of takeoff and landing slot rules help the airport recover from its epidemic recession.
The airport reported losses of just over £ 1m a day in 2021, down from £ 95m in 2020 to £ 371m, although passenger numbers dropped another 6.3 million last year.
Gatwick expects more than 30 million passengers in 2022, operating at 85% capacity in the summer, helping to return slot rules that ensure airlines use at least 70% of their allotted takeoff and landing slots.
The South Terminal, a money-saving mothball, will reopen at the end of March, when British Airways will also return to short-haul flights from the airport.
Gatwick’s largest 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 the suspended slot regulations in 2020 would “restore order” and be more efficient and economically beneficial to the region, but denied that it would lead to “ghost flights”.
The chief executive, Stuart Wingate, said the flight’s load factors were already high before the new rules took effect, adding: “My biggest concern is having a ghost terminal.”
He said the lifting of the travel ban has increased demand and in recent months airport businesses have been recruiting for more than 2,000 new positions.
Wingate said the airport was “very alert” to the risk of Russian invasion of Ukraine but now said, “In terms of our business, the assumption is that the conflict will not escalate, there is a very small direct exposure. In the case of oil prices, most large airlines are well hedged.”
The airport has completed a public consultation to build its standby runway for routine use by the end of 2021, the next step in a path that it hopes the government will approve in 2018.
Wingate said the airport was expected to surpass pre-epidemic business levels by 2025. He added: “It will take time to fully restore consumer confidence and I urge the government to make 2022 a year when all travel bans, including unpopular passenger locator forms, will be completely lifted.”