GATWICK Airport is in talks with bank lenders to try to avoid defaulting on multi-million pound loans, as Covid restrictions contribute to huge losses.
The UK’s second biggest airport said travel restrictions and the coronavirus collapse in demand meant a £204m pre-tax loss in the first half of the year.
Gatwick urged the government to ease travel rules, warning the UK recovery was falling behind the rest of Europe.
But the government said its ‘top priority is to protect public health’.
Gatwick said that a year after requesting short-term waivers on its loans, it was under pressure again and has asked banks for another extension.
It said in a statement the government ‘needs to act now and remove unnecessary and costly PCR testing requirements for passengers, particularly for those double vaccinated’.
The airport said: ‘The UK is in danger of continuing to lag behind Europe and the US whose much simpler travel rules are enabling passengers to travel more freely and enjoy much needed breaks and reunions with family and friends.’
It added: ‘The UK aviation recovery is far behind countries in Europe such as France and Germany whose travel bookings are on average over 50% of pre-pandemic levels whereas in the UK it is sitting at approximately 16%.’
Virgin Atlantic announced in May that it would quit the airport.
On Thursday, holiday giant Tui said the UK was falling behind a travel recovery in Europe.
In July, a legal challenge brought by Manchester Airport Group and five airlines to try to force more transparency about the lists failed.
Chief executive Charlie Cornish said: ‘The recovery of our sector – which supports millions of jobs and billions of pounds in economic value – continues to lag significantly behind the rest of Europe as a result of excessive restrictions in place in the UK.’
A Department for Transport spokesperson said: ‘Our top priority is to protect public health.
‘We recognise the challenging times facing the travel sector, which is why we have committed around £7bn of support by September 2021 and continue to work with industry to help them navigate this difficult period.
‘Travel continues to be different this year and we encourage people to always check Foreign Office travel advice before travelling as any trip carries an increased risk.’