Gatwick “ready to deliver”, Heathrow “undermined”

Stewart Wingate, CEO of Gatwick Airport, has underlined the airport’s vital role for Britain and calls on the Government to outline a clear path for sustainable growth, pointing out that expansion at Gatwick would produce more economic benefits than expansion at Heathrow.

Stewart Wingate was speaking at the 2017 Airport Operators Association Annual Conference. He said Gatwick’s increased long-haul routes, cargo growth and investment underline the increasingly vital role Gatwick will play in connecting Britain to the world.

Gatwick is on the verge of serving 46 million passengers and is the world’s busiest single runway airport. Over the past 12 months alone, 22 new long-haul routes have been added, taking the total to 60 long haul destinations and making Gatwick the 5th largest long-haul network of any airport across Europe.

Stewart Wingate said: “We’re on the verge of serving 46 million passengers this year, up from 31 million in 2010. That’s a 50% increase in total passenger numbers in just 7 years. And importantly our passengers are increasingly flying to long-haul destinations as airlines of all types open up new routes beyond Europe.

“This year, 7.5 million people will fly from Gatwick to over 60 long-haul destinations, meaning Gatwick now has the 5th largest long-haul network of any airport across Europe. Over the past 12 months, we’ve announced 22 new long haul routes to the likes of Cape Town, Kigali, Singapore, Taipei, Xi’an, Hong Kong, Buenos Aires, Chicago, Austin, Los Angeles, Denver, Seattle, Vancouver and Toronto.

“In fact, we now fly to North America over 300 times a week and as a result our freight volumes have grown by 20% in the past year. And all the while, we’ve not lost sight of our passengers, investing to improve their experience, reducing queuing times, adding more choice in retail, improving our on-time performance and achieving record-levels of passenger satisfaction.

On the Aviation Capacity crunch, he said: “Of course, like every other airport, we are looking for the NPS and the Aviation Strategy to deliver on surface access to airports, to safeguard the land and sky for growth, to prioritise sustainability and the passenger experience, to improve our borders, and importantly to modernise our airspace.

“But most of all, we are looking for the NPS and the Aviation Strategy to provide a pathway for sustainable growth at Gatwick.”

Gatwick has said very little about the expansion debate in the year since the decision to expand Heathrow. However, Mr Wingate said it would be “odd” if he didn’t comment on the new report published as part of a new consultation last week.

He said: “This new information based on updated forecasts – all published by the Government itself and not by Gatwick – effectively turns the Airports Commission work on its head. They completely undermine the basis of the case for expanding Heathrow.

“The judgement has always been that Heathrow’s superior economic – case when compared to Gatwick – outweighed the obvious environmental downsides of the Heathrow project and the many risks around delivery.

“This new consultation now acknowledges in black and white that expanding Gatwick is better for both the economy and the environment.

“At the same time the updated forecasts for Gatwick are already out of date as they predict that Gatwick will be at 45m passengers in 2030 when we actually reached that milestone earlier this year.

“Everyone here recognises that aviation will be even more important to Britain in this next chapter for our country. The new data shows we urgently need at least one new runway in the South East to secure our global connectivity.

“We will continue to examine the new information, but Gatwick is thriving and can offer even more for passengers and the wider economy.

“As we approach this capacity crunch Gatwick continues to stand ready to deliver a privately financed second runway to help Britain prosper.”