Following the demise of British package holiday airline Thomas Cook it now appears that London Gatwick Airport (LGW) could lose as many as 600,000 passengers in 2020.
After having failed to secure a loan from the British government to continue flying, the high street travel agent had no choice but to shut up shop. It left thousands of holidaymakers stranded around the globe.
This sudden closure by such a large and respected company forced the government to launch its biggest ever peacetime rescue mission to bring the stranded tourists home.
150,000 people were left without flights back to the UK
Called “Operation Matterhorn” the mission was to dispatch rescue flights to bring home some 150,000 stranded Thomas Cook passengers. Prior to the collapse of the company in September, Thomas Cook used Gatwick Airports as a major base for flights to Europe and beyond.
To give you an idea of how important Thomas Cook was for Gatwick Airport, the week following the collapse some 50,000 people were due to take 254 flights from Gatwick on Thomas Cook aircraft.
Jet2.com and easyJet will take 65% of Thomas Cooks slots
easyJet just announced that they were getting into the package holiday business, albeit with a twist on how Thomas Cook did it. The Luton Airport (LTN) based low-cost carrier picked up 12 summer slot pairs and eight winter slot pairs at Gatwick Airport.
While speaking with City A.M. and carried by airwaysmag.com, Gatwick Airports CEO Stewart Wingate was eager to remind people that the airlines were queuing up for slots at Gatwick Airport.
“We can see from the activity that there’s plenty of other airlines who are looking for slots at Gatwick. We’re seeing a lot of demand, particularly for long haul carriers looking to access London.”
Despite the absence of Thomas Cook for the last three months of the year Gatwick still looks poised to break its record of 46 million passengers in 2018.
Current predictions based on the first six months of the year where passenger numbers were up 2% on the previous year suggest that by the end of 2019 somewhere between 46 and 47 million passengers will have used Gatwick Airport.
Of those numbers, 20% of passengers were jetting off too long haul destinations that included new routes to Buenos Aires, Argentina and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil launched by low-cost carrier Norwegian Air Shuttle.
Not surprisingly due to all the uncertainty surrounding Brexit Wingate admits that demand for European flights has somewhat softened, but sees plenty of opportunities in South America saying that the Spanish and Portuguese speaking “New World” “could “play a crucial role in the country’s economy and national identity.”
No matter what kind of a spin Wingate wants to put on the collapse of Thomas Cook and a softening in European demand, Gatwick Airport will undoubtedly bounce back from the loss of Thomas Cook and continue to grow year after year.
The main concern for Gatwick as we move towards 2020 is what will happen when the United Kingdom finally leaves the European Union and what effect it will have on European travel.
Sure, South American and other long haul flights will take up some of the slack, but you have to remember those flights only equate to 20% of the airport’s business.
Jet2 and easyJet will certainly fill part of the giant hole that Thomas Cook has left, but with some clever marketing and perhaps the odd incentive or two I don’t think that Gatwick Airport will have any trouble filling empty slots.
What airlines do you think should take up empty slots at Gatwick and why? Please let us know in the comments.