Virgin Atlantic (VS, London Heathrow) would be keen to return to London Gatwick as travel demand returns after having suspended its services from the UK airport at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in May last year.

“We maintain our ambition to rebuild our presence at Gatwick as demand returns, revisiting a long, close and successful relationship with the airport, beginning with our maiden flight from Gatwick in 1984,” a spokesperson said in a statement shared with ch-aviation. “As travel restrictions are eased in further markets, we continue to see growing consumer confidence, however the picture for international travel remains dynamic.”

The airline was responding to a report by The Times that it was planning to resume flights from Gatwick airport next summer buoyed by the strength of demand for transatlantic travel after the reopening of US routes last week. It also came as UK lawmakers were set to review the suspension during the height of COVID last year of the “use-it-or-lose-it” rule pertaining to airport slots. “Virgin has confirmed that the resumption of flights at Gatwick is a case of when and not if,” the newspaper reported.

“While we do not currently operate any services from London Gatwick, we retain access to our slot portfolio. As available Airport Coordination Ltd (ACL) data shows, Virgin Atlantic has access to 2% of Gatwick’s summer slots,” the spokesperson said.

“The UK Government’s approach to slot alleviation during the pandemic has helped airlines better match supply with demand and provided vital operational flexibility during aviation’s greatest crisis. As the sector moves into recovery, it’s important that alleviation remains under consideration. We look forward to contributing to the DfT’s upcoming consultation on its approach for alleviation for the summer 2022 season,” she added.

The news follows hard on the heels of the announcement that British Airways (BA, London Heathrow) intends to launch its new short-haul subsidiary, BA Euroflyer, from Gatwick in March 2022.

It also comes amidst criticism from UK airlines about the application by London Heathrow to hoist its passenger fees by 90%. The UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) currently is consulting with stakeholders on the fee hike. An interim price control of GBP30 pounds (USD34) per passenger is to be implemented from January 2022.