Today an announcement was made by Gatwick Airport, the UK’s second-busiest airport, confirming that it will be temporarily closing its north terminal. The drop in demand caused by the spread of COVID-19 means that the airport will close the terminal from the end of the month. There is still talk of closing the entire airport.
Closing the north terminal
During a period when airports are usually preparing to deal with an increase in passengers jetting off on summer holidays, Gatwick Airport which serves over 46 million passengers a year, has closed one of its terminals. The massive drop in passengers during the ongoing outbreak means that keeping facilities open is not an option.
The airport said in its statement that it will be consolidating any remaining operations into its schedule at the south terminal. However, there aren’t many flights still operating. easyJet, which normally flies from Gatwick’s north terminal, has grounded most of its fleet, as has Emirates which also relies upon this terminal.
Although the south terminal is still open, it is mainly being used for repatriation flights. Almost all facilities including restaurants, shops, and cafes have been closed. Those which have remained open are only offering takeaway services.
Flights from the south terminal will only operate between 14:00 and 22:00 from next month onwards. The arrangement will start on the 1st of April and last for one month.
“Gatwick is a resilient, but also responsible business, and during these extraordinary times we need to take unprecedented measures to protect the health and wellbeing of our staff and passengers, while also shielding the business from the impact of coronavirus.
Gatwick isn’t alone in closing its doors. London City Airport announced it would be closing several weeks ago. Several of the smaller, regional airports have also been forced to shut. But Gatwick’s decision to shut its north terminal shows how even the larger airports are now being affected. Manchester airport has already consolidated all its operations into one terminal.
Airport operators, such as VINCI which owns Gatwick, have already come together to ask the government for support packages as revenues grind to a halt. Gatwick and Heathrow joined together to send a letter to the UK government asking for aid during this uncertain period. So far, no confirmation of any aid has been announced.
The Airport Operators Association has also urged the government to provide emergency aid saying “we are clear that airports will shut down in weeks unless urgent action is taken to support the industry.”
Reopening the terminal
Gatwick has said it will be constantly reviewing the situation but was currently planning on shutting the north terminal for at least a month. There is always the possibility that the entire airport could be shut down.
Gatwick has already announced that at least 200 jobs have been lost so far in an attempt to protect the airport financially. With the closure of the north terminal, this number could be set to rise. However, if the airport is forced to lose many more staff, reopening the airport will be all the more difficult.
While Gatwick struggles to keep going amid the ongoing crisis, it is not the only airport forced to take drastic measures. Heathrow, Manchester, Belfast, and Edinburgh airports have all started to make cuts and closures. It is unfortunate that this situation will likely continue to get worse without financial aid from the government.