LONDON/PARIS, Aug 13 (Reuters) - Britain's Gatwick Airport
urged the government to make international travel easier after
lockdown restrictions drove it to a first-half loss of 245
million pounds ($338 million) and forced it to ask its banks for
a temporary reprieve.
Strict COVID-19 rules during the six months to June 30 meant
passenger numbers at Gatwick, usually Britain's second busiest
airport, plunged 97% from pre-pandemic levels.
The airport, whose majority owner is France's Vinci
alongside minority holder financial investor Global
Infrastructure Partners, said it was in talks with its banks
over a temporary waiver of its borrowing terms due to the
exceptional circumstances affecting air travel.
Bigger rival Heathrow said in July it had also sought a
waiver of a debt covenant.
Britain has been slower to reopen travel than the rest of
Europe despite its fast vaccination program, prompting heavy
criticism from airports as well as airlines like British Airways
Since July, the government has relaxed some rules but
expensive COVID-19 tests for many destinations remain in place,
and last minute rule changes have deterred travel.
Gatwick said Britain was falling behind its European
neighbors, with travel bookings at 16% of their pre-pandemic
levels, whereas France and Germany had risen to about 50%.
"Our government needs to act now and remove unnecessary and
costly PCR testing requirements for passengers, particularly for
those double vaccinated," Gatwick chief executive Stewart
Wingate said in a statement on Friday.
Gatwick, which last year axed staff and cut costs to help it
survive, said it expected passenger numbers to recover in the
second half of the year.
($1 = 0.7248 pounds)
(Reporting by Sudip Kar-Gupta and Sarah Young
Editing by Jason Neely and Mark Potter)