Aviation minister confident airlines will 'keep family holidays affordable'

Gatwick airport reopened its South Terminal on Sunday after being closed for 21 months Credit: ITV News

The Aviation Minister is confident the airline industry will be able to keep prices down despite the cost of living crisis as the industry tries to bounce back for 2022.

Robert Courts MP was at Gatwick airport to see the South Terminal on day two of its reopening, having been closed during the pandemic.

All flights have been operating out of the North Terminal since June 2020 as the airport tries to cut costs.

With the airport keen to recover to 2019 passenger numbers this summer, Robert Courts told ITV News the sector will be able to respond to economic challenges, with people likely to have less money in their pockets after the average energy bill increases by almost £700.

WATCH: Robert Courts MP visited the South Terminal at Gatwick following its reopening

He said: "I'm absolutely confident it (the aviation industry) will enable people to get abroad, to have holidays, to reconnect with friends and families and to run their business. "This is where we'll look to the industry to do what it always does, which is to make sure that it responds to market pressures to ensure that that family holiday is one that's affordable."

Asked of any potential further support should flights struggle to be filled, the minister said:"Over the course of the pandemic, the aviation sector has benefited from about £8 billion of cross-economy support. The freedom is there now to travel, with the easing of covid restrictions, which has given the industry the freedom to respond."

WATCH: Passengers say they plan to travel again this year despite increased costs of living

One of the biggest challenges facing the industry this year is an increase in oil prices, with the war in Ukraine leading to 14-year record highs in fuel as countries look to receive supplies not from Russia.

Some airlines such as Wizz Air have hedged fuel for the next few months - meaning they've secured the fuel they need at a lower price than the current market rate.

Wizz, which markets itself as a low-cost airline, is confident of a boom in bookings with 18 new routes and five aircraft being permanently based at Gatwick.

Marion Geoffroy, managing director of Wizz Air UK, said: "As we seized hedging at the beginning of the crisis we have ensured a certain amount of stability, mitigating the risk of increasing prices.

"It is very volatile at the moment and it is very, very connected to the situation in Ukraine and we hope this is going to improve soon."

South Terminal facts and figures

· South Terminal was formally opened on 9 June 1958 when it had just 11 aircraft stands

· It currently has 31 aircraft stands - same as in the North Terminal

· It is 160,000 square metres in size of which 14,768 square metres is retail facilities

· South Terminal has 3.3km of conveyor belts - the same length as the main runway

· 27 airlines moving back to the South Terminal this week

· Over 49 miles worth of lines have been painted onto aircraft stands

· 4,500 floor tiles and 3,000 lamps and light fittings replaced before reopening

· 10,000 trays processed in during security lane testing, ahead of reopening

· 800 flight information display screens (FIDS) checked and serviced

· 212 new hand sanitisers in place