Gatwick Airport has seen half-year profits jump by nearly two-thirds as travel demand surged, but said air traffic remains below pre-pandemic levels due to “challenging” restrictions across Europe.
The airport, near Crawley in West Sussex, reported pre-tax profits of £100.2 million for the six months to June 30, up 65% from £60.7 million a year ago.
Underlying earnings rose 59% to £235.7 million from £148.3 million a year ago, with early 2022 still affected by pandemic travel restrictions.
The group said air traffic remained below levels seen in 2019 before Covid-19 struck, at 86%, as it faced a “challenging” operating environment in Europe, beset by air traffic control (ATC) restrictions and industrial action, causing cancellations and delays across airlines.
— London Gatwick LGW (@Gatwick_Airport) August 30, 2023
The figures come amid ongoing flight chaos following an ATC fault, which has left many passengers stranded abroad in one of the busiest weeks of the summer holiday season.
The failure, which led to a spate of cancellations and delays, was caused by flight data received by National Air Traffic Services (Nats) – with both primary and back-up systems responding by suspending automatic processing.
Analysis of flight data websites by the PA news agency showed at least 281 departing and arriving flights were cancelled on Tuesday at the UK’s six busiest airports, including 75 at Gatwick.
Aviation analytics company Cirium said 790 departures and 785 arrivals were cancelled across all UK airports on Monday – equivalent to around 27% of planned flights.
Gatwick’s latest half-year figures showed that passenger numbers lifted 41% year on year to 18.5 million, but remained lower than before the pandemic, at 83% of 2019 levels.
It said long-haul demand has taken longer to bounce back, with China only lifting its travel restrictions in the second quarter, leaving long-haul passenger numbers at just 42% of 2019 levels.
However, the recovery has since picked up pace, with long-haul passengers reaching 63% of 2019 levels in June.
Short-haul passenger numbers saw a much faster recovery, reaching 89% of 2019 levels.
A Gatwick spokesman said: “Air traffic restrictions have been our biggest challenge for the first half of 2023. European air traffic control (ATC) strikes, en route ATC staffing issues, and air space restrictions have led to cancellations and delays.
“Also, the ongoing conflict in Ukraine continues to cause restrictions on the use of large
volumes of airspace.
“Despite this, and industrial action from both UK Border Force and train drivers, we’ve continued to operate at a good level.”
Revenues in the first half jumped 45% to £423.5 million, with nearly half – £210.6 million – from retail and parking sales.
It said costs rose by 16.6% to £262.4 million over the first half.
Staff costs made up most of the increase, rising by 38.3% to £79.1 million.