GATWICK lost £244.6 million during the "most challenging six months the airport has witnessed", it has been announced.

The forced travel bans and a collapse in demand saw just 569,000 people pass through the airport from January to June.

Citing expensive PCR tests and long isolation rules, bosses said the government "needs to act now" to allow a return of freedom of travel - or risk lagging behind Europe

The airport was forced to reduce operating costs by 34.4 per cent in the first half of the year through the renegotiated contracts and temporary infrastructure shutdowns.

As a result, staff costs are £31.3 million lower (46.4 per cent) in the first half of the year.

Gatwick Airport, Chief Executive Officer, Stewart Wingate said: “First I would like to thank all our staff for their hard work and fortitude throughout what has no doubt been the most challenging six months the airport has witnessed with its low passenger and air traffic volumes.

"I remain certain that Gatwick will recover and as a business we are financially and operationally well placed for that.

“In the UK we are all emerging to enjoy more freedoms due to our world class vaccination programme, however we are in danger of squandering the advantage that vaccination programme has afforded us for international travel. Our Government needs to act now and remove unnecessary and costly PCR testing requirements for passengers, particularly for those double vaccinated.

“UK travel recovery should not be allowed to lag behind the US and Europe. Passengers need the travel rules simplified so they can choose to travel more freely and enjoy much needed breaks and reunions with family and friends which are currently much more attainable for those in Europe and the US.”

Since March, people dropping off travellers have been had to pay £5 to access the airports North Terminal forecourt.

It is hoped the charge will reduce traffic congestion and emissions for the surrounding area.

Visitors also have to pay £5 for 10 minutes, and £1 for each additional minute up to 20 minutes.

The maximum charge is £25 and the maximum length of stay 30 mins.