Inside Gatwick as airport feels post-pandemic boom despite soaring costs of living

Tap to watch a video report by ITV News Meridian's James Dunham

The economy is in a dire state, if we're not already in a recession it looks like the country will be, and yet parts of the aviation sector are cautiously optimistic.

A lot can happen in two years. At Gatwick, half of the airport was shut down throughout the pandemic with flights grounded from the South terminal but at the start of the half term the airport is operating to 90% of destinations pre-covid.

Despite the rising costs of living, the airport is firmly focussed on growth with new airlines launching and existing carriers increasing routes.

Bamboo Airways will this month start flying passengers to Vietnam while America airline JetBlue is adding a second daily service to New York.

  • Inside Gatwick Airport's South Terminal on the busiest day of the half term

London Gatwick’s Chief Commercial Officer, Jonathan Pollard, said:

"We are really excited to see the number of destinations we fly to almost returning to pre-Covid levels for the October half-term.

"The summer was incredibly busy, and we took steps to provide more certainty for passengers, including recruiting more than 400 new security staff, so we are well resourced for half-term and beyond. It’s great to see our departure lounges busy again with people eager to jet off and enjoy our fantastic range of destinations, across Europe and further afield."

With passenger numbers back to 2019 levels, the airport is pleased with its recovery but research shared to ITV News by ABTA, the travel association and The Sussex Travel Company suggest 2023 could provide further challenges for the sector.

Planned holiday spend for the next year:

At Hallmark Travel, an independent agents in East Grinstead, there's been no letup in bookings.

Gabriele Scholes from the company said, "We just see that people really are very desperate and very keen to travel.

"I know the cost of living has risen and there's a lot of talk about it. Perhaps it will filter through later on, I don't know. But at the moment, people are very, very keen to travel.

"They haven't traveled for three years. We do for example, a lot of bookings to Australia, New Zealand, where especially the elderly wants to see their family, their grandchildren, and they are quite desperate to go. So in that respect, it's busy.

"People also have a bucket list of sorts, 'we haven't had a holiday for three years. Let's do something more special, something which perhaps you wouldn't have done otherwise', so we see that a lot as literally with bookings around the world."

Gatwick's largest carrier Easyjet said it's well placed for the economic challenges.

The company told ITV News that its low net debts and hedged fuel (meaning its already been purchased at a cheaper rate) has create a strong balance sheet.

At Heathrow, Britain's largest airport, the summer was the busiest compared to any European airport.

The word being used by the transport hub is 'uncertain' with bosses aware of what they describe as 'growing economic headwinds'.

British Airways said it was still operating flights to Rhodes as normal. Credit: PA

Heathrow CEO John Holland-Kaye said,

"Heathrow has grown more in the past 12 months than any airport in Europe and we’ve delivered a great passenger experience to the vast majority of travellers.

"I’m proud of the way our team has worked with airlines and their ground handlers to get 18 million passengers successfully away this summer.

"While we face many economic headwinds, as well as the legacy of Covid, our aim is to get back to full capacity and the world class service people should expect from the UK’s hub airport as soon as possible."