London Gatwick Airport

Gatwick Airport (IATA: LGW, ICAO: EGKK) is located 5 km (3.1 mi) north of the centre of Crawley, West Sussex, and 45.7 km (28.4 mi) south of Central London. Previously known as London Gatwick, it is London's second largest international airport and second busiest by total passenger traffic in the United Kingdom after Heathrow. Gatwick furthermore is Europe's leading airport for point-to-point flights and has the world's busiest single-use runway averaging 52 aircraft movements an hour.

In 2010, over 31.3 million passengers passed through Gatwick, making it the 9th largest in Europe by passenger traffic and the 12th busiest in terms of international passengers.

Charter airlines generally prefer Gatwick over Heathrow as a base for London and the South East. From 1978 to 2008, many flights to and from the United States used Gatwick because of restrictions on the use of Heathrow implemented in the Bermuda II agreement between the UK and the US. (As of 2010, Delta Air Lines and US Airways are the only US carriers to continue serving Gatwick from the US.) The airport is a base for scheduled operators Aer Lingus, British Airways (BA), EasyJet, Flybe and Virgin Atlantic, as well as charter airlines including Monarch Airlines, Thomas Cook Airlines and Thomson Airways. Gatwick is unique amongst London's airports in having a significant airline presence representing each of the three main airline business models: full service, low/no frills and charter.

BAA Limited and its predecessors, the British Airports Authority and BAA plc, owned and operated Gatwick continuously from 1 April 1966 until 2 December 2009. On 17 September 2008, BAA announced it would sell Gatwick following a report by the Competition Commission into BAA's market dominance in London and South East England. On 21 October 2009, it was announced that agreement had been reached to sell Gatwick to Global Infrastructure Partners (GIP), the owners of London City Airport, for £1.51 billion. Of this amount, £55 million will depend on the airport's future traffic development and its owners' future capital structure (£10 million and £45 million respectively). The sale was formally completed on 3 December 2009. On this day, Gatwick's ownership passed from BAA to GIP. In early 2010, GIP reportedly sold minority stakes in Gatwick to South Korean National Pension Service and Abu Dhabi Investment Authority (ADIA). On 18 June 2010, it was reported that CalPERS, California's and the US's biggest state pension fund, had bought a 12.7% equity stake in Gatwick Airport from GIP. An announcement made in the Financial Times on 21 December 2010 stated that the Future Fund, a sovereign wealth fund set up by the Australian government, planned to buy a 17.2% stake in Gatwick Airport from GIP.

  • 1241: The name "Gatwick" is first recorded, as Gatwik, the name of a manor on the site of today's airport. Until the 19th century it was owned by the De Gatwick family. Its name is derived from the Anglo-Saxon words gāt, 'goat', and wīc, 'dairy farm', i.e. 'goat farm'. (On the adjacent map, Gatwick Manor is at the northwest end of the racecourse; its name is somewhat obscured by the map's paper being eroded over an old crease. The site of the modern runway runs roughly from the racecourse to the lane junction at Hydefield farm southeast of Charlwood.)
  • 1890: The descendants of the original owners sold the area to the newly established Gatwick Race Course Company.
  • 1891: The new owners opened a racecourse beside the London–Brighton railway, and a dedicated station including sidings for horse boxes. The course held steeplechase and flat races. During World War I the course hosted the Grand National.
Airport infrastructure and airline operations
  • Late 1920s: Land adjacent to the racecourse at Hunts Green Farm along Tinsley Green Lane was used as an aerodrome.
  • August 1930: Following a change in land ownership, the aerodrome was licensed.
  • Later in 1930: The Surrey Aero Club was formed at the aerodrome by a Mr Waters, who had been the manager of Home Counties Aircraft Service Ltd based at Penshurst Airfield in Kent. Surrey Aero Club used the old Hunts Green farmhouse as club house.
  • 1932: Redwing Aircraft Company bought the aerodrome and operated a flying school. The aerodrome was also used for pilots flying in to races.
  • 1933: The Air Ministry approved commercial flights from Gatwick. The aerodrome was sold for £13,500 to Morris Jackaman, an investor.
  • 1934: Morris Jackaman formed a new airport company named Airports Limited. Hillman's Airways became Gatwick's first commercial airline operator as a result of starting scheduled services from the airport to Belfast and Paris.
  • September 1935: A new railway station called Gatwick served by two trains an hour on the Victoria–Brighton line opened. (The present Gatwick station is on the same site.)
  • 1935: A new airline named Allied British Airways was formed, by a merger between Hillman's Airways, United Airways and Spartan Airways. The newly formed carrier, which subsequently shortened its name to British Airways, became Gatwick's principal operator.
  • 30 September 1935: Tinsley Green railway station opened 0.85 miles (1.37 km) south of the present Gatwick station.
  • 17 May 1936: The first scheduled flight to depart The Beehive was bound for Paris. The applicable air fare was £4 5s, including a first class rail ticket from London Victoria.
  • June 1936: The world's first circular airport terminal, called The Beehive, opened at Gatwick. It was designed by Frank Hoar and included a subway to Gatwick Airport railway station that enabled passengers to travel from London Victoria Station to the aircraft without stepping outside. Tinsley Green railway station was renamed Gatwick Airport.
  • September and November 1936: Two fatal accidents questioned the airport's safety. Moreover, the area was prone to fog and waterlogging as a result of poor drainage due to heavy clay soils. This in turn caused the new subway to flood after rain.
  • 1937: As a result and because longer landing strips were needed, the pre-war British Airways moved to Croydon Airport. Gatwick went back to private flying and was contracted as a Royal Air Force (RAF) flying school. The airport also attracted repair companies.
  • September 1939: The Air Ministry requisitioned Gatwick.
  • World War II: Although the airfield became a base for RAF night-fighters and an army co-operation squadron, it was mainly a repair and maintenance facility.
  • 1940: Horse racing at Gatwick stopped and never restarted.
  • 1946: Gatwick Airport was officially decommissioned, but the Ministry of Transport and Civil Aviation continued to operate it as a civil airfield, initially for a six-month trial period. During that period, the airport provided maintenance facilities and charter companies flying war-surplus aircraft started to use it; however, persistent drainage issues affected the airport's usage. Most commercial air services were cargo flights. The original Gatwick railway station was renamed Gatwick Racecourse.
  • November 1948: The owners warned that the airport could be de-requisitioned by November 1949 and revert to private use. Stansted was favoured as London's second airport and Gatwick's future was in doubt.
  • 1950: Despite opposition from local authorities, the Cabinet decided that Gatwick was to be an alternative to Heathrow.
  • July 1952: The Government said that the airport was to be developed, primarily to cater to aircraft diverted from Heathrow in bad weather.
  • 1956–1958: Temporary closure for a £7.8 million renovation. During that period, British European Airways (BEA) continued using Gatwick for its helicopter operations. The redevelopment was carried out by Alfred McAlpine. It entailed diverting the A23 London—Brighton trunk road and the River Mole, and building the runway across the erstwhile racecourse site and rebuilding the former racecourse railway station alongside the new terminal. The main pier of what is now the South Terminal was built during this construction work.
  • 27 May 1958: The original Gatwick railway station, which had been rebuilt, reopened as Gatwick Airport. The railway station at Tinsley Green shut and never reopened.
  • 30 May 1958: Before the official opening, Transair operated the first commercial air service from the new Gatwick.; a Jersey Airlines de Havilland Heron was the first scheduled aircraft to arrive at the newly reconstructed airport.
  • 9 June 1958: Queen Elizabeth II flew into the new airport in a de Havilland Heron of the Queen's Flight to perform the opening. The first "official" flight to depart Gatwick following the reopening ceremony was a BEA DC-3 operating a charter for Surrey County Council to Jersey and Guernsey. Gatwick was the world's first airport with a direct railway link and the first to combine mainline rail travel, trunk road facilities and an air terminal building in one unit. It was also one of the first to have an enclosed pier-based terminal, which allowed passengers to walk under cover to waiting areas close to aircraft with only a short walk outdoors. Another novel feature of Gatwick's new air terminal was its modular design. This permitted subsequent, phased expansion.
  • 8 June 1959: BEA started using Gatwick. It was followed by BEA Helicopters and BEA Airtours, which made the airport their base.Sudan Airways and BWIA West Indies Airways were among Gatwick's first scheduled overseas airlines. The former's Blue Nile services were the first scheduled flights from Gatwick by a foreign airline. These services operated between Khartoum and London Gatwick via Cairo, Athens and Rome, initially using Airwork Vickers Viscount aircraft. British United Airways (BUA) assumed this operation the following year, as a result of the Airwork – Hunting-Clan merger. (BUA were also acting as Sudan Airways's technical advisers.) US supplemental carriers Seven Seas Airlines, Capitol International, President Airlines and Transocean Airlines, as well as various South European and Scandinavian charter operators, figured prominently among Gatwick's early overseas users.
  • Late 1950s: From here on, a number of Britain's private airlines established themselves at Gatwick. The first was Transair. It was followed by Airwork, Hunting-Clan and Morton Air Services. In July 1960, these merged to form British United Airways. Throughout the 1960s, BUA was Britain's largest independent airline. During that decade, it became Gatwick's largest resident airline. By the end of the decade, it also became the airport's leading scheduled operator, with a 71,000 kilometres (44,100 mi) network of short, medium and long-haul routes across Europe, Africa and South America. These were served with contemporary BAC One-Eleven and Vickers VC10 jet aircraft.
  • Early 1960s: Despite rapid expansion of BUA's and other airlines' scheduled activities at Gatwick, the airport was dominated by non-scheduled services well into the 1980s. The bulk of these were inclusive tour (IT) passenger services provided by a growing number of British independent operators and their overseas counterparts. During the 1960s, IT services accounted for between two-thirds and three-quarters of Gatwick's annual passengers, earning the airport its bucket and spade tag.
  • 1962: Two additional piers were added.
  • 1 May 1963: Non-scheduled operators began implementing the Ministry of Aviation's instruction to transfer all regular charter flights from Heathrow to Gatwick, restricting the former's use for non-scheduled operations to "occasional" charter flights only.
  • 1964: Gatwick's original, relatively short 7,000 feet (2,134 metres) 1950s runway was extended by 1,200 ft (365 m) to 8,200 ft (2,499 m) due to new noise rules governing the operation of jet aircraft at airports close to or surrounded by densely populated urban areas.
  • 1965: By now, each of the three piers was nearly 1,000 feet (300 m) long and the entire terminal complex had a floor area of 100,000 sq ft (9,300 m2). Fully extendible jet bridges were added when the piers were rebuilt and extended in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
  • The Bridge to Pier 6 in the North Terminal opened in 2005

  • Inter-terminal transit track and Sofitel hotel. The North Terminal building is in the background

  • Inside the world's largest air passenger bridge at the North Terminal's Pier 6

  • View of Gatwick's apron from the North Terminal passenger bridge, looking towards the South Terminal

  • South Terminal international arrivals concourse

  • Gatwick's North Terminal building and transit station

  • 1970: Second extension of Gatwick's runway by 875 ft (267 m) to 9,075 ft (2,766 m) to permit non-stop jet operations to the US east coast with a full payload and full-range/payload operations by British United and Caledonian BAC One-Eleven 500s.
  • Late November 1970: BUA was acquired by the Scottish charter airline Caledonian Airways. The new airline was known as Caledonian//BUA. BUA's takeover by Caledonian enabled the latter to transform itself into a scheduled airline. In addition to scheduled routes inherited from BUA, it launched scheduled services to Europe, North and West Africa, North America as well as the Middle and Far East during the 1970s and '80s.
  • September 1971: Caledonian//BUA became British Caledonian (BCal).
  • November 1971: BCal commenced the first scheduled service by a wholly private UK airline since the 1930s between London and Paris from Gatwick to Le Bourget.
  • November 1972: Laker Airways became the first operator of widebody aircraft at Gatwick, following the introduction of two McDonnell-Douglas DC-10 aircraft. Laker's DC-10 fleet expanded throughout the 1970s and early '80s with longer-range variants.
  • 1973: Third extension of Gatwick's runway to 10,165 ft (3,098 m) to allow non-stop narrowbody operations to the US west coast with a full payload and commercially viable, long-range widebody operations.
  • April 1973: BCal inaugurated the first transatlantic scheduled services by a private UK airline to New York and Los Angeles.
  • March and May 1977: BCal introduced its first two DC-10s at Gatwick.
  • 26 September 1977: Laker Airways launched Skytrain, Gatwick's first daily long-haul, no frills flights to John F. Kennedy (JFK) Airport.
  • 1 April 1978: As passenger numbers had grown steadily since the late 1970s, as a result of several Government initiatives in support of Gatwick's development, new policies came into effect to transfer all scheduled services between London and the Iberian peninsula from Heathrow to Gatwick, and compelling all airlines that were planning to operate a scheduled service to or from London for the first time to use Gatwick instead of Heathrow. The latter policy was officially known as the "London Air Traffic Distribution Rules". It was applied retroactively from the beginning of April 1977. These rules were designed to achieve a fairer distribution of traffic between London Heathrow and London Gatwick, the UK's two main international gateway airports. The policy was aimed at increasing Gatwick's utilisation to help the airport make a profit. Another pro-active measure the Government took to aid Gatwick's development at the time was to grant permission for a high-frequency helicopter shuttle service linking both of London's main airports.
  • 9 June 1978: BCal, British Airways Helicopters and the BAA jointly inaugurated the new helicopter shuttle service linking London Heathrow and London Gatwick.
  • August 1980: BCal launched the UK's first private scheduled air service to Hong Kong (via Dubai).
  • 1982: BCal started to operate a small fleet of Boeing 747–200s at Gatwick.
  • 1983: As passenger numbers grew, a circular satellite pier was added to the terminal building, connected to the main terminal by the UK's first automated people mover system (now replaced with a walkway and travelators). Construction began on the North Terminal, which was the largest construction project south of London in the 1980s. It cost £200 million.
  • 1984: The new air traffic control tower opened. The non-stop Gatwick Express rail service to London Victoria station was launched. There was a need for more capacity and a second terminal was planned.
  • July 1985: A British Airways Concorde operated the type's first-ever commercial flight from Gatwick.
  • Year ending April 1987: Gatwick overtook New York JFK as the world's second-busiest international airport, handling 15.86 million international passengers – 100,000 more than JFK.
  • 18 March 1988: Queen Elizabeth II opened the North Terminal.
  • End of the 1989/90 financial year: Scheduled passengers outnumbered holidaymakers travelling on non-scheduled services for the first time in Gatwick's post-war history. The latter had accounted for more than half the airport's passengers during the 1970s and most of the 1980s.
  • 1991: The North Terminal was expanded with a second aircraft pier.
  • 1991–1992: Dan-Air replaced Air Europe as Gatwick's principal short-haul scheduled operator following the latter's demise at the beginning of that period. Dan-Air and Air Europe had played an important role in the development of Gatwick and its short-haul scheduled route network.
  • 1994: The North Terminal international departures lounge and phase 1 of the South Terminal international departures lounge opened. Both developments cost £30 million. The North Terminal has an area of 75,000m2. Gatwick's two terminals are connected by an automated rapid track transit system.
  • 1998: Fourth extension of Gatwick's runway to 10,879 ft (3,316 m) to enable longer-range operations with fully-laden widebody aircraft.
  • 2000 and 2001: Gatwick's two terminals were further expanded to add more seating, retail space and catering outlets, at a total cost of £60 million. This included an extension to the North Terminal departure lounge completed in 2001.
  • 2005: A £110 million additional aircraft pier (Pier 6) opened, adding an extra 11 pier-served aircraft stands. Linked by the world's largest air passenger bridge to the North Terminal's main building, it spans a taxiway, giving arriving and departing passengers views of the airport and taxiing aircraft. The same year, an extension and refurbishment to the South Terminal's baggage reclaim hall was completed, doubling it in size.
  • May 2008: Another extension was completed to the South Terminal departure lounge. In addition, a second-floor security search area opened. The South Terminal now covers an area of 120,000m2. The terminal is mainly used by low-cost airlines. Many former users have moved to the newer North Terminal.
  • 12 October 2009: Qatar Airways's daily QR076 Gatwick–Doha scheduled service became the first commercial flight powered by fuel made from natural gas. The Airbus A340-600HGW operating the six-hour flight ran on a 50–50 blend of synthetic gas-to-liquids (GTL) and conventional oil-based kerosene developed by Shell instead of traditional, purely oil-based aviation turbine fuel.
  • 3 December 2009: The transfer of Gatwick's ownership from BAA Limited to Global Infrastructure Partners became effective.

Following the sale of the airport to GIP, Gatwick's new owners announced their intention to proceed with a previously agreed £1 billion investment programme to upgrade and expand the airport's existing infrastructure to transform the passenger experience. It is hoped that this will firmly establish Gatwick as the airport of choice for air travellers whose journey begins and/or ends in London and other parts of South East England. According to Virgin Atlantic communications director Paul Charles, the prospect of offering much better facilities to Gatwick's airlines and passengers as a result of the change in ownership presents a long-term opportunity to leapfrog Heathrow in terms of airport infrastructure and passenger amenities. It is expected that GIP will use its relationships to persuade new and existing airlines to consider launching additional routes from Gatwick, reinstating services suspended as a result of the global recession in the wake of the financial crisis that began in 2007 and Open Skies and/or expanding their existing flying programme from the airport in the near future.

  • February 2010: It was reported that GIP sold minority stakes of 12% and 15% to South Korean National Pension Service and Abu Dhabi Investment Authority (ADIA), for £100 million and £125 million, respectively. These were sold in Gatwick's – rather than GIP's – name. The sale of these stakes is part of GIP's strategy to syndicate the equity portion of the original acquisition by issuing bonds to refinance bank debt. Although this entails bringing in additional investors in the airport, GIP aims to retain management control.
  • 18 June 2010: It was announced that Californian state pension fund CalPERS had spent approximately US$155 million (£104.8 million) on acquiring a 12.7% stake in Gatwick Airport from GIP, marking the US$200 billion fund's first direct infrastructure investment.
  • 22 June 2010: Gatwick Airport Limited launched a new competitive brand featuring the tagline "YOUR LONDON AIRPORT – Gatwick" alongside a rename from "London Gatwick Airport" to "Gatwick Airport". Created by advertising agency Lewis Moberly, the new blue-and-white corporate identity is intended as a challenger brand to BAA and aims to differentiate Gatwick from rival Heathrow in support of majority owner GIP's corporate goal to establish Gatwick as London's airport of choice for passengers and airlines.
  • 16 November 2010: Gatwick Airport Limited announced the appointment of Guy Stephenson as its new commercial director, with responsibility for the airport's airline route development and car parking strategies.
  • 21 December 2010: The Financial Times reported that the A$69 billion (£44 billion) Future Fund, a sovereign wealth fund set up by the Australian government in 2006, intended to buy a 17.2% stake in Gatwick Airport from GIP for £145 million. This transaction will complete GIP's equity syndication process for Gatwick. Although this will reduce GIP's stake to 42%, the private equity firm's extra voting rights will enable it to retain control of the airport's board.

Gatwick handled 186,172 passengers during its first seven months of operation following the 1956–58 reconstruction. By 1959, the number of passengers passing through the airport each year had grown to 368,000.

In 1968, annual passenger numbers at Gatwick hit the two million mark for the first time.

By the early 1970s, five million passengers used Gatwick each year. Within a decade, this figure doubled to ten million. It doubled again to over 20 million by the late 1980s.

By the turn of the millennium, Gatwick handled more than 30 million passengers annually.

Passenger numbers peaked in 2007 when the airport handled over 35 million for the first time. However, this total had reduced to 31.4 million by 2010, a 3.1% reduction on 2009's 32.4 million. The airport recorded 240,500 aircraft movements during 2010, 4.5% less than in 2009 and the lowest total in eleven years.

The steepest decline in passenger traffic during 2010 related to Irish and North Atlantic traffic, both of which showed double-digit declines of 14.8 and 13% on 2009, to 1.221 and 1.898 million respectively. European scheduled and charter as well as UK traffic showed smaller, single-digit annual declines (down by 0.7, 7.7 and 4.7% to 15.24, 4.8 and 3.5 million respectively). On the other hand, other long-haul traffic constituted the only passenger traffic component to record an annual increase of 3.4% to 4.69 million, while air freight was the only overall traffic component to record a double-digit annual increase of 39.3% to 104,143 metric tonnes. However, this was less than a third of the total amount of freight the airport handled a decade earlier.

July 2011 saw a further increase in Gatwick's passenger numbers – the seventh consecutive monthly gain for the year – and air transport movements. Compared with July 2010, the total number of passengers passing through the airport rose by 5.9% to 3.632 million. Other long-haul was the only passenger traffic component to show a double-digit decline of 10.2% to 360,100 passengers. European charter traffic saw a smaller, single-digit reduction of 3.7% to 667,700 passengers. All other passenger traffic components recorded increases. Amongst these, European scheduled traffic saw a double-digit increase of 14.1% to 1.899 million passengers while UK, Irish and North Atlantic traffic registered smaller, single-digit gains of 5.4, 4.7 and 4.4% to 359,100, 130,800 and 216,200 passengers respectively. Air transport movements grew by 2.7% to 23,938. Average monthly passenger load factors rose by 2.3% to 86.8%, a July record high. The double-digit growth in European scheduled traffic and the rise in air transport movements were the result of increased low-cost carrier activity in short-haul markets compared with the same period the year before. In contrast to the growth in passenger traffic and air transport movements, cargo volume recorded another steep, double-digit decline of 24.1% to 7,260 metric tonnes.

Gatwick today

Gatwick Airport has two terminals, North and South. Both have shops and restaurants, landside and airside. Disabled passengers can travel through all areas. There are facilities for baby changing and feeding, and play areas and video games for children. Business travellers have lounges offering business facilities. On 31 May 2008, Virgin Holidays opened V Room, Gatwick's first dedicated lounge for leisure travellers. Use of this lounge is exclusive to Virgin Holidays customers flying from the airport to Orlando, Las Vegas and the Caribbean with sister airline Virgin Atlantic. On 9 April 2009, a new independent pay-for-access lounge called No.1 Traveller opened in the South Terminal. It also serves US Airways Envoy passengers. There is also a conference and business centre. Furthermore, the airport has several on- and off-site hotels. These range from executive to a capsule hotel. The airport has Anglican, Catholic and Free Church Chaplains. In addition, there is a multi-faith prayer room and counselling room in each terminal. A daily service is led by one of the chaplains. The prayer room is open to all faiths.

The Civil Aviation Authority Safety Regulation Group is in Aviation House.WesternGeco, a geophysical services company, has its head office and its Europe/African offices in the Schlumberger House, a 124,000-square-foot (11,500 m2) building on the grounds of Gatwick Airport, near the south terminal. WesternGeco had a 15-year lease on the building which was scheduled to expire in June 2008. In 2007, WesternGeco reached an agreement with its landlord, BAA Lynton, and extended its lease at Schlumberger House until 2016. Its initial rent was £2.1 million.

In 1968, British United Airways relocated its head office to Gatwick from Portland House in London. After Caledonian Airways acquired British United Airways, the resulting airline, British Caledonian, had its head office at Gatwick. When CityFlyer Express operated, the airline's head office was in the Iain Stewart Centre. When Laker Airways operated, they had their head offices on the airport property.

Gatwick Airport has an office complex on the airport property, called City Place Gatwick. The complex includes four buildings: The Beehive, a former terminal building; the BT building, 2 City Place, and 3 City Place. City Place was developed by BAA Lynton.BT Wholesale and BDO International currently occupy offices in the complex. Companies that once had their head offices in buildings in the complex include GB Airways and CP Ships.

Major airlines

In 2010, EasyJet, British Airways (BA), Thomson Airways, Monarch Airlines and Thomas Cook Airlines were Gatwick's five biggest airlines, in terms of passengers carried. Amongst these, BA and EasyJet were its two dominant resident airlines. In late 2007, BA and easyJet accounted for 25% and 17% of Gatwick's slots. The latter's share of slots subsequently rose to 24% as a result of its takeover of BA franchise carrier GB Airways, which accounted for 7% of slots (late 2007). The acquisition of GB Airways in March 2008 resulted in easyJet becoming Gatwick's biggest short-haul operator accounting for 29% of short-haul passengers (ahead of BA's 23%) and Gatwick's largest airline overall, with flights to 62 domestic and European destinations (at April 2008). By summer 2011, EasyJet had further reinforced its position as Gatwick's leading airline by increasing the number of destinations served from the airport to 92, using a fleet of 46 aircraft. Gatwick is the airline's largest base, where its 11 million passengers per annum account for 35% of the airport's yearly total.

On 30 March 2008, airlines began down-sizing transatlantic operations due to the new EU-US Open Skies Agreement. Continental Airlines is the second transatlantic carrier – after American Airlines – to pull out of Gatwick altogether, following its decision to transfer the seasonal Cleveland service to Heathrow from 3 May 2009. The slots vacated by these moves as well as by the collapse of Zoom, XL Airways UK and Sterling were taken by EasyJet, Flybe, Norwegian Air Shuttle and Ryanair.

By late 2008, easyJet's share of Gatwick slots had grown to about 26%, while Flybe had become Gatwick's third-largest slot-holder accounting for 9% of the airport's slots, as well as its fastest-growing airline. The latter airline has also become Gatwick's largest domestic operator, whose eight routes serving the airport from other destinations in the UK, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man carried 1.2 million passengers in its 2010/11 financial year. From a peak of 40% in 2001, BA's share of Gatwick slots declined by 50% to 20% by summer 2009.

Changing character of airport

According to the evidence Flybe submitted at a Competition Commission hearing into BAA Limited's market dominance at the beginning of 2008, Gatwick's dynamics were changing rapidly as a result of recent changes in its traffic pattern. These were likely to transform the airport from a secondary intercontinental airline hub into a predominantly European and domestic operation feeding London and specifically the south London market.


Gatwick operates as a single runway airport. Strictly speaking it has two runways; however, the northern runway (08L/26R) can only be used when the main runway (08R/26L) is out of use, for example because of maintenance or an accident. The runways cannot be used at the same time because there is not enough separation between them, and during normal operation the northern runway is used as a taxiway. It can take 15 minutes to change from one runway to the other.

The main runway operates with a Category III Instrument Landing System. The northern runway does not have an Instrument Landing System and, when it is in use, arriving aircraft use a combination of Distance Measuring Equipment and assistance from the approach controller using surveillance radar, or where equipped and subject to operator approval, an RNAV (GNSS) Approach, which is also available for the main runway. On all runways, considerable use is made of continuous descent approach to minimise environmental effects of incoming aircraft, particularly at night.

Night flights are subject to restrictions. Between 11 pm and 7 am the noisiest aircraft (rated QC/8 and QC/16) may not operate. In addition, between 11.30 pm and 6 am (the night quota period) there are three limits:

  • An overall limit on the number of flights;
  • A Quota Count system which limits the total of noise permitted, but allows operators to choose to operate fewer noisy aircraft or a greater number of quieter planes;
  • QC/4 aircraft may not operate at night.

The airport is policed by the Gatwick District of Sussex Police. The district is responsible for policing the whole airport, including aircraft, and in certain circumstances, aircraft in flight. The 150 officers attached to this district include armed and unarmed officers, and community support officers for minor offences. The airport district counter man-portable surface-to-air missiles (MANPADS) by patrolling in and around the airport. A separate sub-unit has vehicle checks around the airport.

Brook House, an immigration removal centre of the UK Border Agency was opened on 18 March 2009 by the then Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith.

Airlines and destinations

Gatwick has two terminals: North and South. The South Terminal is Gatwick's older and busier terminal, and is also where the airport railway station is located. In March 2008, EasyJet split its Gatwick services between both terminals, with many routes taken over from GB Airways now departing from the North Terminal. The following list includes all scheduled services to and from Gatwick Airport, as well as seasonal charter flights.

Ground transport

Gatwick has set the objective that 40% of passengers should be using public transport by the time the annual throughput reaches 40 million (estimated in 2015), from the 2006 figure of 35.3%.


The airport is accessed by a motorway spur road at junction 9A of the M23, which links to the main M23 motorway 1 mile (1.6 km) east at junction 9. The M23 connects with London's orbital motorway, the M25, 9 miles (14 km) north. This gives access to much of Greater London, the South East and beyond. The M23 is the main route for traffic to the airport. Gatwick can also be accessed by the A23, which serves Horley and Redhill to the north and Crawley and Brighton to the south. The A217 provides access northwards to the local town of Reigate.

The airport has long and short-stay car parks – at the airport and off-site – although these are often full in summer. Local planning restrictions limit car parking at and around Gatwick.


The Gatwick Airport railway station is next to South Terminal and provides connections along the Brighton Main Line to London Victoria and London Bridge stations, as well as Brighton and Worthing to the south. The Gatwick Express to Victoria, operated by Southern, is the best-known service from the station, but other companies, including First Capital Connect and First Great Western, use the station as well, and Southern provides services to Victoria and London Bridge under its own brand. First Capital Connect provide direct trains to Luton Airport and First Great Western trains provide a direct rail link with Reading and connections with Oxford and the West.

Foot passengers can reach Heathrow by a X26 Express Bus from outside East Croydon station.

Bus and coach

National Express Coaches operates coaches to Heathrow Airport and Stansted Airport, as well as cities and towns throughout the region and country. Oxford Bus Company operate direct services to Oxford. EasyBus operates minicoaches from both terminals to Earls Court/West Brompton. (National Express Dot2Dot used to operate a service to central London, but this ceased in 2008.)

Local buses connect North and South terminals with Crawley, Horley, Redhill, Horsham and other destinations. Services are offered by Metrobus and Fastway, a guided bus rapid transit system which was the first of its kind to be constructed outside a major city.

There are at least two sets of stairs for foot-passengers to leave South Terminal to ground-level (near the cycle route) from Zone L and the train-station area (steps are labelled Exit Q and Exit P on the ground). These allow access to bus stops for local services.


Route 21 of the National Cycle Network passes under South Terminal, allowing virtually traffic-free cycling northwards to Horley and southwards to Three Bridges and Crawley. A goods-style lift runs between the terminal and ground level (signed "Lift to Cycle Route"), near Zone L.

Terminal transfer

Gatwick Airport's North and South terminals are connected by a 0.75 miles (1.2 km) elevated two-way automated people mover track. The shuttle system is normally operated by two automatic, three-car driverless train vehicles. Although colloquially referred to widely as a "monorail", the shuttle system runs on a dual concrete track with rubber tyres and is not technically a monorail.

The original Gatwick transit system opened in 1983 when the circular satellite pier was built, connecting the pier to the main terminal building, and was the UK's first automated people mover system. A second transit track was constructed in 1987 to link to the new North terminal. The original satellite transit line was later replaced with a walkway and travelator link, but the inter-terminal shuttle remains in operation.

The original Adtranz C-100 people mover cars remained in continuous operation until 2009, in which time they travelled a total of 2,500,000 miles (4,020,000 km). In September 2009 the vehicles were withdrawn from service to allow the transit system to be upgraded. Meanwhile, the two terminals were connected by a temporary free bus service. A new operating system and shuttle cars consisting of six Bombardier CX-100 vehicles was installed and the guideway and transit stations were refurbished at a cost of £45 million. The new system opened for use again on 1 July 2010, two months ahead of schedule.


In 1979, an agreement was reached with West Sussex County Council not to build a second runway before 2019.

In its original consultation document published on 23 July 2002 the Government decided to expand Stansted and Heathrow, but not Gatwick. However, Medway Council, Kent County Council and Essex County Council sought a judicial review of this decision. The judge reviewing the lawfulness of the Government's decision ruled that excluding Gatwick from the original consultation was irrational and/or unfair. Following the judge's ruling and the Secretary of State for Transport's decision not to appeal, BAA published new consultation documents. These included an option of a possible second runway at Gatwick to the south of the existing airport boundary, leaving the villages Charlwood and Hookwood to the north of the airport intact. This led to protests about increased noise and pollution, demolition of houses and destruction of villages.

Prior to the change of ownership, BAA planned an £874 million investment at Gatwick over five years, including increased capacity for both terminals, improvements to the transport interchange and a new baggage system for the South Terminal.

On 2 December 2009, the House of Commons Transport Select Committee published a report entitled The future of aviation. With regard to Gatwick, it calls on the Government to reconsider its decision to build a second runway at Stansted, in the light of growing evidence that the business case is unconvincing and that Gatwick is a better location.

In April 2008, Gatwick began work on a new inter-terminal shuttle which signalled the first major development in a £1 billion programme aimed at modernising the airport. The project included the installation of a completely new shuttle system, new shuttle cars, refurbishment of the rubber track and transformation of the terminal stations. The launch took place in July 2010 and attendees included James van Hofton, from the board of directors. The shuttle cost £43million and features included live journey information and the use of sensory technology to count the number of passengers at stations.

Passengers passing through the airport are being made aware of the redevelopment programme in a number of different ways, including through the use of giant mobile barcodes on top of construction hoardings. Scanning these results in content about the construction work being transferred to the user's smartphone.


Several options to expand Gatwick have been considered, including a third terminal and a second runway to the south of the existing runway. This would allow Gatwick to handle more passengers than Heathrow does today. If a second, wide-spaced (as opposed to close parallel) runway is approved, a new terminal could be sited between the two runways. This could either complement or replace the current South Terminal, depending on expected future traffic developments.

A less ambitious alternative would extend the North Terminal further south, with another passenger bridge to an area currently occupied by aircraft stands without jet bridges (Pier 7). There are also plans to expand the capacity of the North Terminal and to extend Pier 6.

In October 2009, BAA submitted planning applications for Gatwick to handle an extra six million passengers a year by 2018 and for an extension to the North Terminal to provide new check-in facilities and additional baggage reclaim hall capacity, along with a 900 space short-stay car park.Crawley Borough Council's decision to approve these plans was upheld in November 2009 by the Government's refusal to hold a public inquiry despite objections from local environmental protesters.

Speaking at the first Gatwick Airport Consultative Committee (Gatcom) meeting since GIP's takeover of the airport (held on 28 January 2010 at Crawley's Arora Hotel), Gatwick's recently appointed chairman Sir David Rowlands ruled out building a second runway for the foreseeable future, citing the high cost of the associated planning application – estimated to be between £100 million and £200 million – as the main reason for the new owners' lack of interest. At that meeting, Gatwick chief executive Stewart Wingate stressed GIP's preference for increasing the existing runway's capacity and confirmed GIP's plans to request an increase in the current limit on the permitted number of take-offs and landings.

In October 2010, Gatwick Airport Limited received planning permission from Crawley Borough Council to adapt both terminals to handle the Airbus A380 on a regular, commercial basis.

Incidents and accidents
  • 15 September 1936 – a British Airways Ltd de Havilland DH 86 operating a night mail flight to Germany crashed on takeoff, killing the airline's chief pilot and two members of the aircraft's crew.
  • November 1936 – a British Airways Ltd Fokker F 12 crashed in a wood 4.5 miles (7.2 km) south of Gatwick whilst executing its final approach to the airport under a low ceiling in poor visibility, killing both pilots and severely injuring the engineer.
  • 17 February 1959 – a Turkish Airlines Vickers Viscount 794D (registration: TC-SEV) on an international charter flight crashed in heavy fog at Newdigate, Surrey, whilst approaching to land at Gatwick. The plane hit some trees. Fourteen of 24 on board died. Turkish Prime Minister Adnan Menderes was amongst the survivors.
  • 2 September 1963 – an Iberia Lockheed L-1049G Super Constellation (registration: EC-AMQ) leased by Aviaco and operating a charter flight from Barcelona, Spain, brushed trees on Russ Hill while on final approach to London Gatwick. Although the aircraft sustained minor damage as a result of this incident, which occurred during the descent, ca. 220 ft (67 m) above and 1.75 nautical miles (3.2 km) from the runway threshold, it landed safely and none of the 75 passengers on board were injured.
  • 5 January 1969 – a Boeing 727-113C (registration: YA-FAR) operating flight 701 of Ariana Afghan Airlines arriving from Frankfurt Rhein-Main Airport, Germany, crashed into a house in Fernhill near Horley, Surrey, in low visibility. The flaps were not extended to maintain flight at final approach speed. Forty-eight of the 62 on board died as well as two on the ground.
  • 28 January 1972 – a British Caledonian Vickers VC10-1109 (registration: G-ARTA) sustained severe structural damage as a result of an exceptionally hard landing at Gatwick at the end of a short ferry flight from Heathrow, where the aircraft had been diverted due to Gatwick being fog-bound and where all passengers had disembarked. A survey of the aircraft's damage revealed that its airframe had been bent out of shape and that it required extensive repairs to be restored to an airworthy condition. The airline's senior management decided that these repairs were not cost-effective. The aircraft was written off and a decision taken to have it scrapped. It was eventually broken up at Gatwick in 1975.
  • 20 July 1975 – a British Island Airways (BIA) Handley Page Dart Herald (registration: G-APWF) was involved in a runway accident while departing on a scheduled flight to Guernsey. The aircraft lifted off from runway 26 after a ground run of 760m and appeared airborne for 125m with its landing gear retracting before the rear underside of the fuselage settled back on to the runway. None of the 45 occupants were hurt.
Notes and Citations