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Article from BTNews 6 SEPTEMBER 2021

ON THE SOAPBOX: Stewart Wingate, CEO. Gatwick Airport

Stewart Wingate has been CEO of Gatwick Airport since 2009 (at the time of the breakup of the old BAA, joining from Stansted Airport where he had been Managing Director.  Whilst investor group Global Infrastructure Partners have remained as shareholders since that time (with others) as of now the French engineering group Vinci controls 50.1% of the shares, Gatwick its largest airport.

He would encourage readers to visit the Gatwick North website which was also covered in last week's BTN Gatwick’s Northern Runway

“The UK Government needs to loosen travel restrictions now, before it’s too late.  Testing should be removed altogether for double vaccinated travellers.

Gatwick Airport and the wider aviation sector have repeatedly called on Government to loosen the travel restrictions and to open up international travel, just as we have done domestically.  

Our passenger numbers, and recent half-year results, show that these restrictions are having a real impact on jobs and livelihoods for those who work in the aviation sector, as well as the communities we serve.  They are also keeping friends and family apart and hindering business opportunities and growth.  

Some small steps have been made towards recovery, with more countries added to the green list and easing restrictions for those who are double vaccinated, but you just have to look at the number of travel bookings to see these changes are having little impact.   

Passenger confidence in the UK has been shattered and we’re seeing bookings at around 20% compared to pre-pandemic levels, in stark contrast to 60% in Europe and 80% in the US.  These countries are well on their way to recovery, whilst the UK continues to languish behind, despite our world-leading vaccination programme – a programme that was designed to help us return to our normal way of life as quickly as possible.

The UK’s ongoing system of travel restrictions is squandering our world-leading vaccination effort.  But there could be some relatively easy wins for Government to rebuild passenger confidence, and save jobs in the sector, reunite friends and family and support Global Britain.   While we recognise the importance of a dynamic traffic light system that responds to public health needs, the frequency of changes and onerous testing requirements for even green countries is destroying passenger confidence.  

Of course, we would like to see a better, more stable system and an increase in the countries on the green list.  However, we also want to see no testing for travellers who have been double vaccinated if coming from either a green or amber listed country.   

This would reflect what the UK Government itself recognises – namely that double vaccinated travellers present a much-reduced public health risk.  It would also follow a similar path to many countries in Europe, where those who have been double vaccinated are free to travel.  

Passengers who aren’t double vaccinated should have to take a lateral flow test and then, if that is positive, take a PCR test, while those coming from red countries should have to quarantine as the risk profile demands.

Put simply, testing should be removed altogether for double vaccinated travellers.  And this is possible now because vaccination levels in many keys markets have caught up or even overtaken the UK’s own programme.

These changes would help us help ourselves out of this crisis by removing barriers to travel for many more people and help increase bookings at a time we sorely need them.

Gatwick is a national asset and a major employer. Pre-pandemic we had grown to more than 46 million passengers, supported over 135,000 jobs and contributed £8.3bn to the economy every year.   

I’m confident the airport will recover and, by the end of the next decade, we will need more capacity to maintain efficient operations, improve resilience and meet passenger demand.  This is why we just announced plans to bring our existing Northern Runway into routine use alongside our Main Runway. This sustainable, low impact proposal maximises the use of our existing runways – in line with Government policy – and is largely confined within our current airport boundary.

We are taking our plans forward now to be ready to meet future demand because of the time it will take to secure approvals, complete construction and start dual runway operations.”

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