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Gatwick makes companywide restructure plans

Posted 1 September 2020 · Add Comment

Despite an encouraging start to the year passenger numbers at Gatwick fell by 66% in the first six months ending 30th June 2020 due to the impact of COVID-19 and although the airport remained open throughout the pandemic, all revenue streams were impacted and the collapse in passenger demand led to a 61.3% fall in revenue and a £321 million loss, whilst EBITDA fell 98.3%.



Courtesy Gatwick Airport


Decisive and swift action was taken to protect the financial strength of the business, following the spread of COVID-19 in March. Planned capital expenditure has been reduced by £157m for 2020 and £196m for 2021. Operational costs have been also reduced by over £100m through a variety of actions including consolidating air traffic to one terminal allowing for infrastructure shutdowns, severance programmes and termination of fixed term contracts, and improving efficiencies of its services in line with reduced airline and passenger demand.

A priority continues to be protecting the health and wellbeing of employees and passengers and, following latest Government guidance, a wide range of health measures have been introduced and are continuously assessed to maintain and help restore public confidence in flying.  Gatwick currently has 18 airlines flying to 115 airports in 42 countries.

To improve its liquidity, in April 2020 Gatwick secured a £300m loan with a consortium of banks. As at 30th June 2020, Gatwick held a cash balance of c.£326m. In light of the forecast impact on its financial covenants, Gatwick has commenced a three-week consent solicitation process following successful discussions with its lending banks and with bondholders forming a special committee of the Investment Association, in aggregate representing c.46.9% of total secured debt.

In line with further reducing operating costs, with over 70% of Gatwick’s employees remaining on furlough, the business has announced a company-wide restructuring proposal which could result in the region of a further 600 job losses. The restructuring will better align the business to passenger and air traffic forecasts whilst allowing it to remain agile should demand recover faster than expected. The recovery period to pre-pandemic traffic levels is forecast to be four to five years.

Gatwick Airport, Chief Executive Officer, Stewart Wingate said: “Like any other international airport, the negative impact of COVID-19 on our passenger numbers and air traffic at the start of the year was dramatic and, although there are small signs of recovery, it is a trend we expect to continue to see. However, we are focussed on ensuring the business remains robust and is best placed to take advantage of future growth.

“As with any responsible company we have protected our financial resilience by significantly reducing our operational costs and capital expenditure.   We are going through a proposed company-wide restructuring programme and I want to thank all my staff for their hard work to date whilst we go through this difficult time. We will emerge a fitter and stronger organisation, best placed to remain flexible and agile in responding to growth opportunities. This includes continuing to do all we can to protect the safety and wellbeing of our staff and passengers.

“In this post COVID-19 travelling world, we are working hard with our airlines to ensure we continue to offer our customers a wide choice of destinations and carriers. We also expect, next year, to progress our plans to bring the existing Northern (stand-by) Runway into routine use which, as we rebuild our passenger numbers over the next four to five years, will enable us to offer even more travel choice. We will ensure we continue to deliver our operation mindful of our environmental, social and governance responsibilities.  We want to rebuild better.

Despite the immediate challenges I remain resolutely optimistic that Gatwick will recover and retain its position as one of the UK’s leading travel hubs and economic driver for the region.”

Gatwick's plans for a significant restructure across its business is designed to further reduce operating and staff costs in light of the dramatic impact COVID-19 has had on its passenger and air traffic numbers. The proposed organisation redesign will reshape the company so it is best placed to respond quickly to future growth.

The new proposals could result in the region of 600 job roles being removed from across the business, which is approximately 24% of the current number of employees.  The company will now enter into a formal consultation process with employees.

In August, usually one of the airport’s busiest months, passenger numbers are over 80% down when compared with the numbers of passengers Gatwick saw that month in 2019. The company took rapid action to protect the airport back in March to preserve as many jobs as it could by reducing costs, managing cash outflows and securing a £300m bank loan.

Current traffic and passenger volumes are such that Gatwick is currently operating from just its North Terminal. Compared to this time last year, the airport is operating at around 20% of its capacity and therefore still has over 75% of its staff on the UK Government’s Job Retention Scheme, which is due to end in October.

Stewart Wingate said: “If anyone is in any doubt about the devastating impact COVID-19 has had on the aviation and travel industry then today’s news we have shared with our staff, regarding the proposed job losses, is a stark reminder.  We are in ongoing talks with Government to see what sector specific support can be put in place for the industry at this time, alongside mechanisms which will give our passengers greater certainty on where and when they can safely travel abroad.  This support will not only help Gatwick but the wider regional economy which relies on the airport.

“I want to take this opportunity to thank all of our staff, those who have worked tirelessly to keep Gatwick open throughout the pandemic and those who have had to remain on furlough, for their dedicated tenacity, professionalism and team spirit.  We will continue to do all we can to preserve as many jobs as possible.

“Gatwick will recover from this pandemic and we will emerge from the restructuring we are proposing a fitter and stronger organisation which is best placed to offer our passengers and our airlines a modern and innovative airport, ready for growth.”

 


 

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