Gatwick Airport is a major international airport in south-east England, 29.5 miles (47.5 km) south of Central London and 2.7 nautical miles (5.0 km; 3.1 mi) north of Crawley.It is the second-busiest airport by total passenger traffic in the United Kingdom, after London Heathrow. Gatwick is the eighth-busiest airport in Europe. Until 2016, it was the busiest single-use runway airport in the world before being overtaken by Mumbai's Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport. Gatwick opened as an aerodrome in the late 1920s, and has been in use for commercial flights since 1933. The airport has two terminals, the North Terminal and the South Terminal, which cover areas of 98,000 m2 (1,050,000 sq ft) and 160,000 m2 (1,700,000 sq ft) respectively. It operates as a single-runway airport, using a main runway with a length of 3,316 m (10,879 ft). A secondary runway is available but, due to its proximity to the main runway, can only be used if that is out of use. In 2016, 43.1 million passengers passed through the airport, a 7.1% increase compared with 2015.
The land on which Gatwick Airport stands was first developed as an aerodrome in the late 1920s. The Air Ministry approved commercial flights from the site in 1933, and the first terminal, "The Beehive", was built in 1935. Scheduled air services from the new terminal began the following year. Major development work at the airport took place during the 1950s. The airport buildings were designed by Yorke Rosenberg Mardall between 1955 and 1988.
In the 1960s, British United Airways (BUA) and Dan-Air were two of the largest British independent airlines at Gatwick, with the former establishing itself as the dominant scheduled operator at the airport as well as providing a significant number of the airport's non-scheduled services and the latter becoming its leading provider of inclusive tour charter services. Further rapid growth of charter flights at Gatwick was encouraged by the Ministry of Aviation, which instructed airlines to move regular charter flights from Heathrow. Following the takeover of BUA by Caledonian Airways at the beginning of the following decade, the resulting airline, British Caledonian (BCal), became Gatwick's dominant scheduled airline during the 1970s. While continuing to dominate scheduled operations at Gatwick for most of the 1980s, BCal was also one of the airport's major charter airlines until the end of the 1970s (together with Dan-Air, Laker Airways and British Airtours). As a result of conditions imposed by Britain's Monopolies and Mergers Commission on the takeover of BCal by the then newly privatised British Airways (BA) at the end of the 1980s, Dan-Air and Air Europe assumed BCal's former role as Gatwick's dominant scheduled short-haul operator while BA continued in BCal's erstwhile role as the airport's most important scheduled long-haul operator. Following the demise of Air Europe and Dan-Air (both of which had continued to provide a significant number of charter flights in addition to a growing number of scheduled short-haul flights at Gatwick) in the early 1990s, BA began building up Gatwick into a secondary hub (complementing its main hub at Heathrow). These moves resulted in BA becoming Gatwick's dominant airline by the turn of the millennium. BA's subsequent decision to de-hub Gatwick provided the space for EasyJet to establish its biggest base at the airport and to become its dominant airline.
BAA Limited (now Heathrow Airport Holdings Limited) and its predecessors, BAA plc and the British Airports Authority, owned and operated Gatwick from 1 April 1966 to 2 December 2009.
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. US Airways, Gatwick's last remaining US carrier, ended service from Gatwick on 30 March 2013. This leaves Gatwick without a scheduled US airline for the first time in nearly 40 years.
On 17 September 2008, BAA announced it would sell Gatwick after the Competition Commission published a report about BAA's market dominance in London and the South East. On 21 October 2009 it was announced that an agreement had been reached to sell Gatwick to a consortium led by Global Infrastructure Partners (GIP), who also have a controlling interest in Edinburgh[nb 3] airport, for £1.51 billion. The sale was completed on 3 December. In February 2010, GIP sold minority stakes in the airport of 12% and 15% to the South Korean National Pension Service and the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority (ADIA) for £100 million and £125 million, respectively. The sales were 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 additional investors into the airport, GIP aims to retain management control. The Californian state pension fund CalPERS acquired a 12.7% stake in Gatwick Airport for about $155 million (£104.8 million) in June 2010. On 21 December 2010, the A$69 billion (£44 billion) Future Fund, a sovereign wealth fund established by the Australian government in 2006, agreed to purchase a 17.2% stake in Gatwick Airport from GIP for £145 million. This transaction completed GIP's syndication process for the airport, reducing its stake to 42% (although the firm's extra voting rights mean it still controls the airport's board).
The airport is a base for scheduled airlines British Airways (BA), EasyJet, Monarch Airlines, Norwegian Air Shuttle and Virgin Atlantic and charter operators such as Thomas Cook Airlines and Thomson Airways. Gatwick is unique amongst London's airports in its representation of the three main airline business models: full service, low-cost and charter. As of October 2016, these respectively accounted for 26.6%,[nb 4] 61.3%[nb 4] and 13.1%[nb 5] of Gatwick's seat capacity.
By late 2015, EasyJet flew over 100 routes from Gatwick with a fleet of more than 60 aircraft. The airport is the carrier's largest base, and its 16 million passengers per year accounted for 45% of Gatwick's 2013 total (ahead of Gatwick's second-largest passenger airline: BA, whose 4.5 million passengers comprised 14% of total passenger traffic in 2011–12).
EasyJet, BA and Norwegian are Gatwick's three biggest resident airlines. They collectively accounted for 65.43% of Gatwick's total passengers in 2016 (EasyJet: 40.37% / 17.4 million; BA: 14.39% / 6.2 million; Norwegian: 10.67% / 4.6 million). As per Official Airline Guide (OAG) data for the week of 29 May 2017, their respective international departure seat capacity shares at the airport for summer 2017 are: 42.1%, 15.4% and 9.4%. In terms of passengers carried, EasyJet and BA were also among the five largest airlines operating at Gatwick in 2010 (which also included Thomson Airways, Monarch Airlines and Thomas Cook Airlines at the time) and the top 10 in 2015.In terms of total scheduled airline seats at Gatwick in 2014, EasyJet accounted for 18.36 million, more than two-and-a-half times as many as second-placed BA (seven million) and nearly five times the number offered by third-placed Norwegian Air Shuttle (3.74 million). Using data sourced from the OAG Schedules Analyser, the following changes in the respective departure seat capacity shares of Gatwick's three biggest airlines occurred from 2010 to 2015: EasyJet's share increased from 26.1% in 2010 to 42.1% in 2015; BA's share dropped from 18.3% in 2010 to 15% in 2015; Norwegian's share rose almost three-fold from less than 3% in 2010 to 8.3% in 2015. EasyJet, BA, Norwegian, Thomson Airways, Monarch Airlines, Ryanair, Thomas Cook Airlines, Virgin Atlantic, Emirates and Vueling were Gatwick's top 10 airlines by share of passengers in 2016.
EasyJet's acquisition of BA franchise carrier GB Airways in March 2008 increased its share of airport slots to 24% (from 17% in late 2007); the airline became the largest short-haul operator at the airport, accounting for 29% of short-haul passengers. By 2009, BA's share of Gatwick slots had fallen to 20% from its peak of 40% in 2001. By 2010, this had declined to 16%. By mid-2012, EasyJet had 45% of Gatwick's early-morning peak time slots (6 am to 8:55 am).
By 2008, Flybe was Gatwick's third-largest airline (accounting for 9% of its slots) and its fastest-growing airline. It became the airport's largest domestic operator, carrying 1.2 million passengers in its 2011–12 financial year on eight routes to destinations in the UK, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man. In March 2013, the airline announced that it would end operations at Gatwick, citing unsustainably high airport charges and increases in UK Air Passenger Duty. Flybe sold its 25 pairs of daily slots[nb 8] at the airport to EasyJet for £20 million. The latter's share of Gatwick slots increased to 44% in summer 2014; second-placed BA has held about 16% of the airport's slots since 2010. Following the sale of its Gatwick slots to EasyJet, Flybe continues to provide the scheduled service between Gatwick and Newquay, as a result of being awarded the contract to fly this route under a four-year Public Service Obligation (PSO).
The EU–US Open Skies Agreement, which became effective on 30 March 2008, led a number of airlines to downsize their transatlantic operations at Gatwick in favour of Heathrow. Continental Airlines was the second transatlantic carrier (after American Airlines) to leave Gatwick after its decision to transfer the seasonal Cleveland service to Heathrow on 3 May 2009.
Slots left by the US carriers (and the collapse of Zoom, XL Airways UK and Sterling) were taken by EasyJet, Flybe, Norwegian Air Shuttle and Ryanair. A number of full-service airlines have established or resumed operations at the airport, including Aeroflot, Cathay Pacific, Swiss International Air Lines and Turkish Airlines. This is part of the airport's strategy to attract higher-spending business travellers (countering its dependence on European low-cost and charter markets), increasing year-round capacity utilisation by smoothing peaks and troughs in traffic. Gatwick's success in persuading these airlines to launch (or re-launch) routes to overseas destinations important for business and leisure travel was aided by a lack of comparable slots at Heathrow. On 16 June 2015, it was announced that Canadian airline WestJet would begin flights to Gatwick in the spring of 2016. This was followed by an announcement on 25 June 2015 by Air Canada Rouge that it would begin a seasonal service from Gatwick to Toronto on 20 May 2016. On 20 April 2017, Norwegian Air Shuttle announced its first long-haul route operated by Norwegian Air UK from Gatwick to Singapore.
The airport has two terminals, South and North. Both have shops and restaurants landside and airside, and all areas are accessible to disabled passengers. There are facilities for baby changing and feeding, and play areas and video games for children; business travellers have specialised lounges. The North and South Terminals are connected by a 0.75 miles (1.21 km), elevated, two-way automated people mover landside. They are not connected once past security.
The official opening of the central and main pier of what is now the South Terminal, with 11 aircraft stands, was on 9 June 1958. Gatwick was one of the world's first airports with an enclosed pier-based terminal, which allowed passengers to walk under cover to waiting areas near the aircraft (with only a short walk outdoors). Another feature of Gatwick's new air terminal was its modular design, permitting subsequent, phased expansion.
As passenger numbers grew, a circular satellite pier was added to the terminal building. It was connected to the main terminal by the UK's first automated people mover system. (This replaced the original North pier dating from 1962; and the people mover was subsequently replaced with a walkway and travelators).
Construction began on the North Terminal on land previously earmarked for a second runway in the draft plan of May 1970. This was the largest construction project south of London in the 1980s, costing £200 million. In 1991 a second aircraft pier was added to the North Terminal.
On 16 May 2005 the new Pier 6 opened at a cost of £110 million, adding 11 pier-served aircraft stands. The pier is linked to the North Terminal's main building by the largest air passenger bridge in the world, spanning a taxiway and providing passengers with views of the airport and taxiing aircraft.
Terminal assignments and rearrangements
As part of a seven-year strategic commercial partnership between Gatwick and EasyJet, the airport proposed a number of changes to individual airlines' terminal locations. These would see EasyJet consolidate all its Gatwick operations in the North Terminal, while British Airways and Virgin Atlantic would swap their terminals. Gatwick believes that these terminal moves improve the airport's operational efficiency and resilience, as the use of different terminals by EasyJet and British Airways reduces pressure on the North Terminal's check-in, security, boarding and ramp areas at peak times. In addition, a terminal swap by Virgin frees up lounge and gate space for BA long-haul passengers in the South Terminal and, unlike BA's current short-haul schedules, Virgin's long-haul schedules do not clash with EasyJet's busy schedule in the North Terminal due to the airlines' differing peak times.
It was confirmed in January 2015 that British Airways would move all its flights to the South Terminal in November 2016 while all EasyJet flights will be consolidated in the North Terminal at the same time. However it was decided in February 2016 to postpone the agreed relocation of airlines until 25 January 2017, to avoid operational disruptions over the 2016–17 Christmas season and to give all parties involved enough time to deal with any unforeseen issues ahead of the February 2017 half-term holidays. The relocation of these airlines was accomplished by the revised date on 25 January 2017.
The airport is accessible from 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 provides access to much of Greater London, the South East and beyond, and the M23 is the main route for traffic to the airport. Gatwick is also accessible from the A23, which serves Horley and Redhill to the north and Crawley and Brighton to the south. The A217 provides access northwards to the 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 restrictions limit parking at (and near) Gatwick.
The airport railway station, next to the South Terminal, provides connections along the Brighton Main Line to Victoria and London Bridge stations in London and Brighton, Worthing, Eastbourne, Portsmouth and Bognor Regis to the south. Although the Gatwick Express to Victoria (operated by Southern) is the best-known service from the station, other companies (including Thameslink and Great Western Railway) also use the station and Southern services Victoria and London Bridge under its own name. Thameslink provides direct trains to Luton Airport; Great Western Railway trains directly link Gatwick Airport with Guildford and Reading for onwards connections to Oxford, Bristol, Plymouth and Cardiff. Pedestrians may reach Heathrow by a X26 Express Bus outside East Croydon station, an intermediate stop for rail service to London. London Oyster Cards and contactless cards have been accepted on all rail routes from Gatwick Airport into London since January 2016. .
National Express Coaches operates coaches to Heathrow Airport, Stansted Airport and cities and towns throughout the region and country. Oxford Bus Company operates direct services to Oxford, and EasyBus operates mini-coaches from both terminals to Earls Court and West Brompton. Local buses connect the North and South Terminals with Crawley, Horley, Redhill, Horsham and Caterham. Services are offered by Metrobus and Fastway, a partly guided bus rapid transit system which was the first of its kind to be built outside a major city.
The airport's North and South Terminals are connected by a 0.75 miles (1.21 km), elevated, two-way automated people mover track. The transit shuttle normally consists of two automatic, three-car, driver-less trains. Although colloquially known as a "monorail", the shuttle runs on a dual, concrete track with rubber tyres and is not (technically) a monorail. The transit is ground-side, and besides linking the two terminals also serves to link the North terminal to the airport railway station.
The shuttle opened in 1987, along with the North Terminal, and initially used Adtranz C-100 people-mover cars which remained in operation until September 2009, by which time they had travelled a total of 2.5 million miles (4 million km). Gatwick began upgrading its shuttle service in April 2008, with a bus replacement service in place from September 2009. A new operating system and shuttle cars (six Bombardier CX-100 vehicles) was installed, and the guideway and transit stations were refurbished at a total cost of £45 million. The system re-opened on 1 July 2010, two months ahead of schedule; it featured live journey information and sensory technology to count the number of passengers at stations.
An earlier transit system, that opened in 1983 to link the main terminal (now the South Terminal) to the (then new) circular satellite pier, was the UK's first automated people-moving system. This system has since been replaced by a walkway-and-moving walkway link, although the remains of the elevated guideway are still visible.