Gatwick is hoping the Government will give the go-ahead for a second runway in its forthcoming airport plan after ramping up long-haul traffic beyond what independent experts expected it to hit.
Chief executive Stewart Wingate said the Government was set to start consultations on a new airport strategy this year and that he believes his airport now merits expansion more than it did when its plans were scrutinised by the Airports Commission lead by Sir Howard Davies in 2015.
“What we would like to see as part of the airport strategy is an endorsement of an additional runway as well as or instead of one at Heathrow,” Mr Wingate said.
He added Sir Howard had predicted Gatwick would only have 48 long-haul connections by 2050 if it built a second runway but a rapid rise in the low-cost long-haul industry means it now has more than 60 just with its existing single runway.
Mr Wingate said major commitments from the likes of Norwegian, which has said it would base 50 Dreamliner aircraft at Gatwick if it was expanded, had also substantially changed the proposition the airport offered from just a few years ago.
“As we went through the Airports Commission the question raised that we had to answer was ‘can you support long-haul connectivity’?,” Mr Wingate said.
“We would argue that Dreamliners and the low-cost long-haul market mean we are well placed.”
Mr Wingate was speaking as the airport welcomed a record 44.1m passengers in the year to March, up 3.2m on the comparable prior period.
Revenue rose 7.7pc to £381m thanks a higher level of sales in areas from airline charges to car parking. Charges to airlines rose 2pc but this was partly offset by an increase in the level of discounts offered to help encourage greater passenger numbers.
Mr Wingate said its charges equated to an average £9 per passenger, which he claimed was up to a third of the amount of some rival airports.
Costs also rose partly because it has employed more people and pay has risen. But its outgoings rose less rapidly (7pc including depreciation and amortisation) than sales which the airport said supported its operating profits.
The airport also splashed out this year with its largest ever level of capital investment in 12 months of £272.6m – including on a new security area in the North Terminal – and is set to spend £1.6bn in the seven years from April 2014.