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BBT March/April 2019 cover
March/April 2019

Gatwick calls Commission data ‘flawed’ as long-haul traffic soars

Gatwick airport has called the Airport Commission’s data in its report on expansion as “flawed” and “out of date”.

The airport has just passed the 42 million annual passenger mark – a milestone the Commission forecast it would not reach until 2030.

Gatwick claims this “further illustrates the flawed and inaccurate data it relied upon".

A decision on expanding airport capacity has been hit by continued delays and there appears to be no imminent decision on whether to expand Heathrow or Gatwick.

Gatwick said despite the Commission’s assessment that Gatwick would not deliver long-haul connectivity, these routes grew 25 per cent year-on-year.

Overall, the airport recorded its busiest ever August with 4.8 million passengers travelling through the airport, +5.7 per cent on last year.

North Atlantic routes drove this growth +51% with Vancouver routes +96%, Montreal routes +63%, and Los Angeles routes +51%

“Our performance proves beyond any doubt that the Airports Commission’s report is fundamentally flawed,” said Gatwick CEO Stewart Wingate. “Gatwick has had its busiest ever August, long haul routes have gone through the roof and we have just passed the 42 million passenger mark 14 years ahead of when the Airports Commission said we would.

“It is encouraging that the Prime Minister and the newly-established sub-committee will be examining this issue and looking at new evidence as a decision on airport expansion is considered. Gatwick is delivering for Britain today and, with a second runway, will continue to deliver the crucial growth we need now more than ever.

“The Airports Commission said that Gatwick could not deliver long haul routes yet we have added 20 this year alone putting us in the premier league of airports in Europe that serve 50 or more long haul links. The Airports Commission also said that we would not serve 42 million annual passengers until 2030 yet we passed this mark just days ago.”

Last week, a Centre for Economic and Business study found Expanding Heathrow is "critical" for the UK if it's to successfully exit the European Union.

The first post-Brexit report into the independent Airport Commission study has found that expanding Heathrow could boost UK GDP by up to £24,500 a family - double that of Gatwick.

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#Gatwickcant because this is not business travel but bucket n spade travel In fact, the 2014 increase in passenger numbers at Gatwick was unusual. The previous year, for example, passenger numbers increased by just 1.2 million and average growth between 2004 and 2014, even with spare capacity available, was less than 0.7 million a year.

In the 13 years between 2000 and 2013, passenger numbers grew by an average of just 260,000 per year, less than one percent.

Only in 2014 and 2015 did traffic growth increase significantly at Gatwick, but this is more likely a result of other factors such as low fuel prices and strong UK economic growth.Retaining long-haul operators has always challenged Gatwick. During the period 2010 to 2016, Gatwick lost twelve long-haul routes, of which seven were to emerging markets: Doha, Hanoi, Seoul, Mexico City, Beijing, Ho Chi Minh City, and Jakarta,

Sir Howard Davies, in the Airports Commission Final Report, stated: “Gatwick expansion is well placed to cater for growth in intra-European leisure flying but is unlikely to provide as much of the capacity which is most urgently required: long-haul destinations in new markets”.

The Airports Commission identified ‘connecting with developing countries’ as the future for UK growth, as did a recent KMPG report and the Let Britain Fly report.

Gatwick routinely loses long-haul routes as it has only a few transfers available for connecting flights, so while it may have acquired some new long-haul routes, its record shows that it struggles to retain them as it is not a ‘hub’ airport.

Gatwick has the same number of long-haul connections today as it did ten years ago, in 2007. In the last five years, it has lost connections to emerging market economies only for these to be replaced by new leisure routes: its tally of lost long-haul routes includes: Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh, Beijing, Mexico City, Accra, and Harare.

However, Garuda Indonesia tried for three years to make a direct flight work from Gatwick to Jakarta, but couldn't. Eventually it gave up and moved to Heathrow in 2016.

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