MORE than 40 per cent of Gatwick Airport staff were made redundant in 2020 as passenger numbers fell by a staggering 78 per cent. 

The devastating impact of the coronavirus crisis on the site has been revealed in the airport's annual results, which were released on Friday.

As a result of the plummeting passenger numbers caused by travel bans and lockdown restrictions, Gatwick reported a loss of £465,000,000 in 2020.

However, bosses say there is "renewed optimism" at the UK's second largest airport after the release of the government's "roadmap" to lifting lockdown restrictions last Monday.

And Gatwick Airport chief executive Stewart Wingate said that the airport's "swift action" to cut costs meant it remained a "resilient and robust" business.

The Argus: Gatwick Airport Gatwick Airport
He 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 more than 40 per cent. 

"I would like to thank all our staff, including those that have left us, for all their hard work and determination throughout these difficult times.

"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 we are best placed to take advantage of a return to international travel this summer."

Money saving measures put in place during the pandemic have include the deferral of investments totalling £380 million which Gatwick planned to make during 2020 and 2021.

Through actions such as reducing staffing levels by more than 40 per cent, renegotiating contracts and using only one terminal for all air traffic and passengers, the airport was able to save a further £140 million.

In April last year, Gatwick secured a £300 million loan with a consortium of banks and the company has also drawn £250m under the Bank of England’s Covid corporate financing facility, designed to support liquidity among larger firms, helping them to bridge coronavirus disruption to their cash flows. 

A Gatwick spokesman said: "As of December 2020, Gatwick had available liquidity of £573m to meet its operating cash flows, planned investment levels and interest payments for 2021."

Chief executive Stewart Wingate now hopes to increase begin welcoming more passengers through the airport's doors "as soon as possible".

The Argus: Gatwick AirportGatwick Airport
But he believes action is needed from the government to make this possible, with ongoing lockdown laws currently stating that people "must stay at home" and not travel "unless you have a legally permitted reason to do so".
"It is illegal to travel abroad for holidays and other leisure purposes," the rules state.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson unveiled his "roadmap" to lifting lockdown restrictions last week, however this did not directly address the prospect of foreign travel in the near future.

Mr Wingate said: "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."

The Argus: Planes at Gatwick AirportPlanes at Gatwick Airport

Amid plans to resume more frequent flights by the summer, Gatwick Airport is looking to implement more safety measures for staff an passengers.

These include new staff Covid-19 testing measures, alongside the NHS testing site opened at the airport last year.

Walk-in and drive-through private testing facilities are also being made available at Gatwick for staff
and the public.