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London Gatwick Airport is Londonmarker's second largest international airport and second busiest by total passenger traffic in the United Kingdommarker after Heathrowmarker. In 2008, it was the world's 28th-busiest airport in terms of passenger numbers and 9th busiest in terms of international passengers. It is the world's busiest single-runway international airport.

Gatwick is located north of the centre of Crawleymarker, West Sussexmarker, and south of London's geographic centre. Gatwick is owned and operated by BAA, which owns and operates six other Britishmarker airports, and is itself owned by an international consortium led by the Spanishmarker Ferrovial Group.

Passenger numbers peaked in 2007 when the airport handled over 35 million passengers for the first time, however this total reduced by 2.9% in 2008 with 34,205,887 passengers using Gatwick. Of these, 26.4 million used scheduled flights (77.2%) and 7.8 million (22.8%) non-scheduled services. The airport recorded 263,653 aircraft movements during that period.

In 2008, Gatwick celebrated 50 years - Queen Elizabeth II opened the airport on 9 June 1958.

Charter airlines generally do not operate from Heathrow and use Gatwick as a base for London and the South East. From 1978 to 2008, many flights to and from the USmarker used Gatwick because of Heathrow restrictions implemented in the Bermuda II agreement between the UKmarker and the US. (As of mid-2009, 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. The airport is also a base for 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 air transport provider business models, ie full service, low/no frills and charter.

London Gatwick has a Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) Public Use Aerodrome Licence (Number P528) that allows flights for the public transport of passengers or for flying instruction.

On 17 September 2008, BAA said it would sell Gatwick following a report by the Competition Commission into BAA's dominance, especially in London and the South East. The airport has a regulated asset base valuation of £1.575 billion.

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 Airportmarker, for a fee of £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 itself is subject to European Union (EU) approval and is expected to close in December 2009. On 26 November 2009, the European Commissionmarker cleared BAA's sale of Gatwick to GIP.


The name "Gatwick" dates back to 1241, the name of a manor on the site of today's airport until the 19th century. It is derived from the Anglo-Saxon words gāt, 'goat', and wīc, 'dairy farm', ie 'goat farm'.
In 1891, a racecourse was created beside the London-Brightonmarker railway, and a station included sidings for horse boxes. The course held steeplechase and flat races. During the First World War the course hosted the Grand National.


In the 1920s land adjacent to the racecourse at Hunts Green Farm along Tinsley Green Lane was an aerodrome and licensed in August 1930. Surrey Aero Club formed in 1930 and used the old Hunts Green farmhouse as club house. Redwing Aircraft Company bought the aerodrome in 1932 and operated a flying school. The aerodrome was also used for pilots flying in to races. In 1933, the aerodrome was sold to an investor. The Air Ministry approved commercial flights from Gatwick the following year, and by 1936, scheduled flights were operating to the Continent. A circular terminal called The Beehivemarker, designed by Frank Hoar, was built with a subway to Gatwick racecourse railway stationmarker so passengers could travel from London Victoria Stationmarker to the aircraft without stepping outside. Two fatal accidents in 1936 questioned the safety of the airport. Moreover, it was prone to fog and waterlogging. The new subway flooded after rain. As a consequence and the need for longer landing strips, the original British Airways moved to Croydon Airportmarker in 1937. Gatwick went back to private flying and was contracted as a Royal Air Force flying school. The airport also attracted repair companies.

Gatwick Airport was requisitioned by the Royal Air Force in September 1939 and used for aircraft maintenance. Although night-fighters, an army co-operation squadron and later fighters were based at Gatwick, it was mainly a repair and maintenance facility.


After the Second World War maintenance continued and charter companies flying war-surplus aircraft started to use the airport. Most services were cargo flights, although the airport suffered bad drainage and was little used. In November 1948 the owners warned the airport could be de-requisitioned by November 1949 and revert to private use.

Stanstedmarker was favoured as London's second airport and Gatwick's future was in doubt. Despite opposition from local authorities, in 1950 the Cabinet decided Gatwick was to be an alternative to Heathrow. The Government said in July 1952 that the airport was to be developed, and the airport was closed for a (£7.8 million) renovation between 1956 and 1958. The redevelopment was carried out by Alfred McAlpine. On 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. However, this event was preceded by Transair operating the first commercial air service from the new Gatwick on 30 May 1958 while a Jersey Airlines de Havilland Heron was the first scheduled aircraft to arrive at the newly reconstructed airport.

The main pier of what is now the South Terminal was built during the 1956–58 construction of Gatwick. In 1962, two additional piers were added. Gatwick was the world's first airport with a direct railway link and one of the first to use an enclosed pier-based terminal which allowed passengers to walk under cover to waiting areas close to aircraft with only a short walk outdoors. Fully extendible jet bridges were added when the piers were rebuilt and extended in the late 1970s and early 1980s. British European Airways (BEA) started flying from Gatwick and BEA Helicopters opened a base. BWIA West Indies Airways and Sudan Airways were among the first scheduled overseas airlines. The latter's Blue Nile services between Khartoummarker and London Gatwick were operated with British United Airways (BUA) Vickers Viscount aircraft. (At the time BUA were acting as Sudan Airways's technical advisers.)

From the late 1950s a number of Britainmarker'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 kilometers (43,217 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 VC-10 jet aircraft.

1970 to date

South Terminal international arrivals concourse
In late November 1970 BUA was acquired by the Scottish charter airline Caledonian Airways. The new airline was known as Caledonian/BUA before adopting the British Caledonian name in September 1971. 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. This included the first scheduled service by a wholly private UK airline since the 1930s between London and Parismarker, in November 1971, as well as the first transatlantic scheduled services by a private UK airline to New Yorkmarker and Los Angelesmarker, in April 1973. It also included the launch of the UK's first private scheduled air service to Hong Kongmarker (via Dubaimarker) in August 1980.

In November 1972, Laker Airways became the first operator of widebody aircraft at Gatwick, following the introduction of two McDonnell-Douglas DC-10 10 series wide-bodied trijets.
Gatwick's North Terminal building and transit station
Laker's DC-10 fleet expanded throughout the 1970s and early '80s with longer-range series 30 aircraft. This enabled the launch of Gatwick's first daily long-haul, no frills flights to New York JFKmarker on 26 September 1977.

British Caledonian was also a Gatwick operator of the DC-10-30 widebody, having introduced its first pair in March and May 1977, respectively. The airline eventually operated a small fleet of Boeing 747-200s as well, having acquired its first jumbo jet in 1982.

Other independent airlines including Dan-Air and Air Europe played a role in the development of the airport and its scheduled route network during the 1970s, '80s and early '90s.

In the 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. Passenger numbers had grown steadily since the late 1970s, as a result of several Government initiatives in support of Gatwick's development. These included new policies to transfer all scheduled services between London and the Iberian peninsulamarker 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 came into effect on 1 April 1978 and 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.
Inside the world's largest air passenger bridge at the North Terminal's Pier 6
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. The new helicopter shuttle service linking London Heathrow and London Gatwick was inaugurated on 9 June 1978.

As passenger numbers grew, a circular satellite pier was added to the terminal building in 1983, connected to the main terminal by the UK's first automated people mover system (now replaced with a walkway and travelator). The new air traffic control tower opened in 1984. The same year, the non-stop Gatwick Express rail service to London Victoria stationmarker was launched. There was need for more capacity and a second terminal was planned.

Construction began on the North Terminal in 1983, which was the largest construction project south of London in the 1980s. It cost £260 million. The terminal was opened by Queen Elizabeth II on 18 March 1988 and expanded in 1991 with a second aircraft pier. In 1994, the North Terminal international departure lounge opened. The North Terminal has an area of 75,000m2. Gatwick's two terminals are connected by an automated rapid track transit system (currently closed for a major refurbishment).
View of Gatwick's apron from the North Terminal passenger bridge, looking towards the South Terminal
An extension to North Terminal departure lounge was completed in 2001, and in 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 main terminal building, it spans a taxiway, giving arriving and departing passengers views of the airport and taxiing aircraft.

In 2000, a major extension to the South Terminal departure lounge was completed, and in 2005 an extension and refurbishment was also completed to the baggage reclaim hall, doubling it in size. In 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.

On 12 October 2009 Qatar Airways's daily QR076 Gatwick-Dohamarker 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.

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 Orlandomarker, Las Vegasmarker and the Caribbeanmarker with sister airline Virgin Atlantic. There is also a conference and business centre. Furthermore, the airport and area has hotels from executive to a capsule hotel.
South Terminal zone A check-in concourse
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.

Major airlines

BA and EasyJet are Gatwick's 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). As of summer 2009, EasyJet has further reinforced its position as Gatwick's leading airline by increasing the number of destinations served from the airport to 72. Gatwick is the airline's largest base, where its 10 million passengers per annum account for almost 30% of the airport's yearly total.

Since then, airlines have started 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 its seasonal Clevelandmarker 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. As per the CAA's April/May 2009 passenger statistics, more UK domestic passengers flying to and from London Gatwick during April 2009 chose Flybe than any other airline.

From a peak of 40% in 2001, BA's share of Gatwick slots will have declined by 50% to 20% by summer 2009.

Changing character of airport

South Terminal zone K check-in concourse
According to the evidence Flybe submitted at a Competition Commission hearing into BAA'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 insufficient 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.
Various aircraft at the North Terminal's Pier 4

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 11pm and 7am the noisiest aircraft (rated QC/8 and QC/16) may not operate. In addition, between 11.30pm and 6am (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.


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 a mile (1.5 km) east at junction 9. The M23 connects with London's orbital motorway. The M25marker, 9 miles (14 km) north, gives access to Greater Londonmarker and the South East. The M23 is the main route by traffic to reach the airport. Gatwick is accessed locally by the A23marker, which serves Horleymarker and Redhillmarker to the north and Crawleymarker and Brightonmarker to the south. The A217 provides access northwards to the local town of Reigatemarker.

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 stationmarker is next to South Terminal and provides connections along the Brighton Main Line to London Victoriamarker and London Bridgemarker stations, as well as Brightonmarker and Worthingmarker to the south. Gatwick Express to Victoria is the best-known service from the station, but other companies, including Southern, First Capital Connect and First Great Western, use the station as well. First Capital Connect provide direct trains to Luton Airportmarker and First Great Western trains provide a direct rail link with Readingmarker and connections with Oxfordmarker and the West.

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

Bus and coach

National Express Coaches operates coaches to Heathrow Airportmarker and Stansted Airportmarker, as well as cities and towns throughout the region and country. Oxford Bus Company operate direct services to Oxford. EasyBus operates minicoaches from Gatwick to London Victoria. (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, Horshammarker 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 Bridgesmarker and Crawley. A goods-style lift runs between the terminal and ground level (signed "Lift to Cycle Route"), near Zone L.

Terminal transfer

North and South terminals are connected by a temporary free bus service while the previous transit system is being upgraded. The transit system was being operated by three-car automatic driverless vehicles that run along a ¾-mile elevated two-way monorail track. The two transit trains had been operating since 1987, in which time they have travelled a total of 2.5 million miles but they were withdrawn from service in September 2009 to allow the transit system to be upgraded. The upgrade of the transit system is estimated to cost £45 million and is due to be completed in August 2010.


In 1979 an agreement was reached with the local council not to expand before 2019, but recent proposals to build a second runway suitable for large jets at Gatwick led to protests about increased noise and pollution and demolition of houses and villages. The government decided to expand Stanstedmarker and Heathrowmarker but not Gatwick. BAA published new consultation which includes a possible second runway south of the airport, but leaves Charlwoodmarker and Hookwood intact north of the airport.

Gate area inside the North Terminal, showing flight information screens
BAA planned an £874 million investment over five years, including increased capacity for both terminals, improvements to the transport interchange and a new baggage system for South Terminal. However the Competition Commission examined claims that BAA had a monopoly on London airports and the airport is to be sold

Future plans

Several ideas have been raised about building a third terminal to the south of the runway. This would be complemented by a second runway, allowing Gatwick to handle more passengers than Heathrow does today.

However, another idea is to extend the North Terminal further south with another passenger bridge to an area currently occupied by aircraft stands without jet bridges. There are also plans to expand the capacity of the North Terminal and Pier 6 can be extended should the need arise. As of present, areas able to accommodate the Airbus A380 are being constructed in both terminals. The South Terminal airside lounge is currently undergoing refurbishment, with hope of increasing the amount of retail space and viewing areas. However, by 2020, a new terminal between the two runways may be built and the South Terminal closed.

Plans to extend the North Terminal and build a multi-storey car park have been submitted during October 2009 with an outcome not expected until 10 November 2009.

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 stationmarker 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.

Incidents and accidents

  • 20 July 1975 – a British Island Airways (BIA) Handley Page Dart Herald 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.


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  42. (FT Home > World > Middle East & North Africa > Airline claims first with gas, 13 October 2009)
  43. (Home > Media Room > Press Release Archive > 2009 > Oct 12: World's First Commercial Passenger Flight Powered By Fuel Made From Natural Gas Lands In Qatar)
  44. (Home > What's Onboard > Clubhouses > V Room - The new lounge at Gatwick)
  45. (News - VROOM opens at London's Gatwick Airport)
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  55. Exciting new routes for Summer 2009 - On sale now!
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  59. "Guarding Gatwick", Airports - September/October 2007 (Key Publishing), p. 17
  60. UK Borders Agency
  61. Gatwick Airport Surface Access Strategy
  62. "BAA to Sell Gatwick Airport"
  63. > London Gatwick > About Gtawick Airport > Airport expansion > interim master plan (Gatwick Interim Master Plan - October 2006)
  65. 1959: Turkish leader involved in fatal crash
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  67. AirDisaster.Com Accident Database
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See also


  • Gwynne, Peter. (1990) A History of Crawley (2nd Edition) Philmore. ISBN 0-85033-718-6
  • King, John, with Tait, Geoff, (1980) Golden Gatwick - 50 Years of Aviation, British Airports Authority.
  • King, John, (1986) Gatwick - The Evolution of an Airport, Gatwick Airport Ltd. and Sussex Industrial Archaeology Society. ISBN 0-9512036-0-6
  • Bain, Gordon, (1994), Gatwick Airport, Airlife Publishing Ltd. ISBN 1-85310-468-x

External links

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