Gatwick Airport is set to welcome thousands more passengers every day in the summer, with numbers reaching pre-pandemic levels, bosses predict.
The Sussex airport has reopened its south terminal, with flights increasing from around 300 to 570 a day from Sunday.
The move is the equivalent to opening a medium-sized airport overnight, meeting the expected high demand for summer travel this year.
Chief executive Stewart Wingate said 80,000 passengers will travel through the airport on Sunday, reaching “well over 150,000 per day” by July.
He told the PA news agency: “We’ve had a lot of restrictions over the last two years associated with the pandemic.
“The good news is, as we stand here today, coming back into the UK there’s no passenger locator form, there’s no requirement to test, so it’s actually very similar to how it was pre the pandemic to travel through the airports.
“We’re going to ramp up very, very quickly over the next two or three weeks and we’ll be busy throughout the summer period and very close to the 2019 volume levels.
“There’s absolutely no question that there’s strong demand, we know that by talking with our airlines.
“It’s pent-up demand, people who haven’t been able to travel now really want to travel.”
The terminal had been dormant since June 15 2020 to reduce costs during the coronavirus pandemic.
Its shops, cafes and other facilities have undergone months of refurbishment, updating and cleaning ahead of the reopening.
British Airways, Wizz Air and Vueling are among the airlines switching their operations from the north to the south terminal between Sunday and Tuesday.
One passenger, who was on their way to Madrid in Spain via the south terminal on Sunday morning, said: “I’m excited to finally travel again, I think it’s a good thing the terminal is opening up.
“People will want to travel, there’s been too many camping holidays over the past few years. I’m sure everyone just wants sun and different culture.”
Other early flights leaving from the reopened terminal were bound for Naples in Italy, Oslo in Norway and the Spanish island of Majorca.
Gatwick advised passengers to check which terminal their flight is departing from before heading to the airport, to arrive early as terminals may be busy, to make sure their passport is still valid and to check foreign travel advice for their destination countries.
Mr Wingate added: “Opening up a facility of this size is really hard work.
“Behind the scenes over the last two or three months we’ve been making sure that all the facilities are in good shape and that all the systems are working.
“I’m pleased to say that al the early flights got up in time.”
Published: by Radio NewsHub