About 40% of employees at Gatwick Airport will have lost their jobs by the end of this month, according to the airport's chief executive.
Stewart Wingate said the airport would be operating at between 10 and 15% of its capacity during the winter months.
He added that it would probably take up to five years before Gatwick would recover from the effects of Covid-19.
But he expressed hope that standardised testing globally and a vaccine would "kick-start the industry" next year.
In August, at the height of the summer holiday season, the airport revealed it was running at about 20% of its usual capacity, with an 80% reduction in the number of passengers.
Mr Wingate told BBC South East Today that he was "pinning his hopes" on the work of the government taskforce looking at how testing for Covid-19 could be used to "halve quarantine periods for travellers and hopefully thereafter to eliminate it altogether".
He said the "pre-airport pre-departure Covid test" could be live by as early as the beginning of December.
Mr Wingate said his second priority, which was less certain, was hopes for a vaccine.
"The two things that we're pinning our hopes on to see passenger volumes grow strongly next year and to see a new normal emerge at Gatwick.
"We're in this for the long haul... and expecting to see the 2019 volumes return to Gatwick probably no earlier than about four or five years from now," he said, adding: "We will work tirelessly to see the airport grow again at the earliest opportunity."
"Once we get through the immediate crisis we're very confident of the core strengths of Gatwick and the region that we serve.
"We particularly think that it will be the low-cost carriers and the leisure traffic that comes back first and we're ideally poised to take advantage of that, so I think there is cause for optimism," he said.