The airline industry in the UK has been hit very hard by the COVID-19 outbreak, with weeks of all fleets being grounded.
Even worse, the second largest airport in London risks hosting a reduced number of passengers for the next three to four years.
In a drive to contain the virus, the UK government has been forced to lock down cities and impose travel restrictions.
The CEO of Gatwick Airport, Stewart Wingate, believes it will take some years before the airport returns to its pre-crisis level.
“We think it will take three to four years for Gatwick to come back to 2019 passenger volume levels,” he told CNBC.
Big airlines threaten to pull out
Gatwick has gone from a vibrant airport to one that risks facing a crisis after two big airlines announced plans to close their services.
Both Virgin Atlantic and British Airways are reviewing their presence at Gatwick and could end their operations.
Wingate said everything is being done to ensure that the two influential airlines do not close their services at Gatwick, an airport which reported almost 37 million passengers in the last nine months of 2019.
“We are very hopeful that British Airways will continue flying: we think they will. We certainly are doing everything we can to persuade them to continue to fly to and from Gatwick and Virgin [Atlantic] are holding on to their spots. So, in three or four years, they are telling us, they certainly intend to come back to Gatwick,” Wingate said.
Travel industry “fights” UK quarantine policy
Many in the air travel industry believe the UK’s quarantine policy is not effective and is the reason for British peoples general reluctance to fly abroad.
Under the present rules, UK-based travellers would have to self-isolate for 14 days on their return to the country.
Wingate argues that UK officials should adopt the models being used in mainland Europe, saying: “Borders are coming down, the planes are starting to fly, and it is really important economically that we participate in this market.”
Britain’s biggest budget airline, easyJet, resumed flights on Monday, having grounded its fleet for 11 weeks.