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Gatwick bosses share £17m in bonuses despite summer of travel chaos

Stewart Wingate Gatwick airport - REUTERS/Peter Nicholls
Stewart Wingate Gatwick airport - REUTERS/Peter Nicholls

The French owners of Gatwick have doled out more than £17m in bonuses to its bosses despite holidaymakers suffering travel misery last year.

Chief executive Stewart Wingate and other directors shared a £17.5m bounty under a long-term incentive plan agreed with Vinci, the infrastructure firm which owns the airport.

Britain’s second biggest airport was one of many travel hubs overwhelmed by demand for getaways as Covid restrictions were eased.

Cancellations and delays were widespread from Easter onwards and Gatwick was forced to restrict flights in the peak summer months.

On-time performance was below Gatwick’s minimum requirements for much of the year. In July just 37pc of flights took off within 16 minutes of their scheduled departure time.

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Baggage handlers at the airport, who are managed by third parties, missed targets of delivering luggage within 35 minutes for small and medium aircraft and 50 minutes for larger planes.

One airline chief executive said Gatwick’s customer service scores were the "worst ever" and the bonuses were "beyond the pale".

Michael O'Leary, Ryanair chief executive, said: “Gatwick runs a good operation. It is far superior to Heathrow.”

However, he added that it made "no sense to cancel flights" in relation to Gatwick's decision to cap flight numbers in July and August.

“Stansted is far superior to Gatwick or Heathrow,” Mr O’Leary said. “Stansted last year had no trouble with ground handling or with security staff.”

The multi-million pound payday, disclosed in the notes to the airport’s annual report, came as Mr Wingate and his team returned Gatwick to profit for the first time since the pandemic. The bonuses were shared among 15 people and are not payable before 2025.

The airport made £197m during the year after racking up more than £800m in losses during the previous two years.

French firm Vinci, which also owns energy infrastructure, motorways and other airports around the world, agreed a £2.9bn deal to acquire a majority stake in Gatwick in 2018.

A spokesman for Gatwick said: “The bonus amounts reported in our annual results are for the most senior members of the company who make up the airport’s executive board.

"The amounts reported in our latest accounts include a multi-year, long term incentive plan payments which are put in place not only to retain and reward the performance of our talented and high-quality leaders but will also be important in order to attract exceptional leaders in the future.

“Like other airports, Gatwick experienced a rapid upturn in traffic when travel restrictions were lifted in 2022, which caused some customer service issues at the very start of the summer season.

“The management team took swift, decisive action working collaboratively with our airlines which gave passengers a good standard of service for the remainder of the peak summer period.”