Eastbourne and Willingdon MP visited Gatwick Airport this week to see how it is looking to recover from the pandemic and meet decarbonisation targets.

In normal times, many foreign visitors to Eastbourne use the airport, and it is part of the UK’s critical national infrastructure, but passenger numbers have fallen dramatically since 2020.

Caroline met with Ben Fordham, the airport’s operations manager and planning and sustainability director Tim Norwood for an update.

The group walked through the mothballed South Terminal, where usually there are 80,000 passengers going all over the world each day.

They also discussed the extension of the north runway to increase capacity in the years to come.

“I very much like to keep up to date with how Gatwick is progressing because it underpins Eastbourne’s local tourist economy for inbound visitors and language students,” said Caroline.

“These visitors, who help secure one in four jobs in our town, have been much missed these last two years but hopefully they will soon start to come again.

“However, I don’t think I have come across a more potent symbol of what the country has gone through economically during Covid than walking into the empty South Terminal.

“I know the airport is confident things will get back to normal now the pandemic is starting to fade but there are going to be challenges and setbacks. I do know there is certainly pent-up demand to get away but I also know that many people have been perfectly happy to holiday in this country too. I am sure there will be changes to how people take holidays.

“The key to the future of aviation is to bring forward decarbonisation of the sector. I was pleased to be reassured that the aviation industry is looking at new fuel-efficient aircraft, and alternative fuel sources which can reduce carbon emissions significantly.

“Longer term new technologies, such as hydrogen, will be critical in decades to come. Gatwick is important to Eastbourne. It brings jobs, investment and prosperity to our town and the entire region and I am sure it will soon bounce back.”