Gatwick lines up for the future

Posted: 30 November 2007 | Andy Flower, Managing Director, BAA Gatwick | No comments yet

BAA Gatwick Airport is the second largest UK airport and the world’s busiest international single runway operation airport. With two terminals linked by a rapid transit system, BAA Gatwick currently welcomes almost 35 million passengers a year, serving a growing route network of over 200 destinations worldwide with around 90 airline partners.

BAA Gatwick Airport is the second largest UK airport and the world’s busiest international single runway operation airport. With two terminals linked by a rapid transit system, BAA Gatwick currently welcomes almost 35 million passengers a year, serving a growing route network of over 200 destinations worldwide with around 90 airline partners.

Recently voted ‘Best Major UK Airport’ by Travel Bulletin readers and regularly winning awards, Gatwick has come a long way since the opening of ‘The Beehive’, the world’s first circular terminal at Gatwick 70 years ago. Next year, the airports’ South Terminal celebrates its 50th birthday and the North Terminal its 20th birthday.

On a busy day in the peak summer season, the airport handles upwards of 800 aircraft movements and around 138,000 passengers fly in and out. On 31 August this year, Gatwick Airport exceeded all records by handling 876 flights in one day. On 2 September a new record of 74,081 arriving passengers was set. These figures show the potential of future growth at the airport.

Interim master plan

In October 2006, BAA Gatwick published its interim master plan in response to the Government’s White Paper, ‘The Future of Air Transport’ published in 2003.

The interim master plan remains substantially similar to the original outline master plan. Firstly, it considers what Gatwick will look like in 2015, with a proposed passenger figure of 40 million per year based on a two terminal, one runway airport.

Secondly, it looks at two different scenarios for 2030: one, as it is now with a single runway and one with a possible wide-spaced second runway. The second scenario directly addresses the requirements of the Government’s White Paper. A second runway at Gatwick would only be considered if strict environmental measures at Heathrow cannot be achieved.

Gatwick remains committed to its legal agreement with West Sussex County Council; not to build a second runway before 2019.

The interim master plan sets out development plans for the future and has been published prior to the conclusion of a number of local studies in the area, such as the Crawley Local Development Framework. The final master plan will be updated to reflect the outcome of these studies.

Sustainable Development

Gatwick’s success comes with the principles of responsible and sustainable growth. In 2001, the airport signed a ground-breaking legal agreement with West Sussex County Council and Crawley Borough Council as part of its Sustainable Development Strategy. It is designed to protect local communities from the impact of growth, whilst enabling the airport to develop in a sustainable way to handle around 40 million passengers per annum in around ten years.

Over 140 commitments, of which 40 were legal obligations, focused on areas such as noise, surface transport, reducing emissions, protecting air quality and establishing a community trust fund.

Sustainable development, which balances the needs of a growing airport with the social, economic and environmental impacts, has enabled Gatwick to achieve year on year growth with the support of its local communities.

A key economic driver for the south east, the airport provides direct employment for around 24,000 people, with around 300 companies associated with the airport.


BAA Gatwick’s ongoing investment programme is centred around delivering high quality, innovative facilities and services, that meet the needs of its passengers and airline customers and makes the best use of technology. With passenger numbers set to grow, BAA Gatwick is planning to invest more than £850 million over the next 10 years.

A series of major investment projects are either underway or have recently been completed, including the provision of additional security lanes to reduce waiting times. Future investment is planned to deliver a range of projects that make maximum use of the existing runway, by supporting future growth through the North Terminal and continual improvement to service quality and facilities in South Terminal, as well as a programme of asset replacement.

Pier 6

The most significant single investment at Gatwick in recent years has been the award winning Pier 6 project.

The airport’s iconic landmark is the world’s largest air passenger bridge to span a live taxiway and is high enough for a Boeing 747 aircraft to pass underneath.

It was officially opened in May 2005 by the then Secretary of State for Transport, Alistair Darling. Within its first year of operation, Pier 6 welcomed in the region of 3.4 million passengers, saving around 50,000 coach journeys transporting passengers to aircraft parked away from pier-served stands. Around 33,000 aircraft have arrived or departed from its 11 new pier served stands.

The bridge represents a £110 million investment by BAA and is an integral part of Gatwick’s drive to provide innovative infrastructure to meet passenger growth. Shaped like a human spine, the bridge was constructed on land to the west of the aircraft aprons, before being moved into position and raised onto its supporting piers.

The sloping glass walls give passengers unrivalled views across the airfield. It is divided lengthways to allow arriving and departing passengers to remain segregated and escalators at each end link it to the North Terminal.

The air passenger bridge has received national recognition, winning the ‘Quality in Construction’ award at the Construction News Awards 2006 and the ‘Structural Achievement Award’ from the Institute of Structural Engineers, 2005.

Key facts:

  • 197 metres long, spanning 128 metres and weighing 2,700 tonnes
  • At the tallest point, it is 32 metres high and has 2260 metres of external glazing units
  • 3,000 people were involved in the project, with over 1 million hours safely conducted on the project
  • For every 1 degree centigrade change in air temperature, the bridge expands or contracts by 1.5mm
  • Airlines using Pier 6 include British Airways, First Choice, Etihad, GB Airways, First Choice and Astraeus
  • 92% of North Terminal passengers now access their aircraft via piers.

New Arrivals Extension

Also in 2005, BAA Gatwick opened the £40 million extension and refurbishment to South Terminal’s baggage reclaim hall.

The extension has doubled the size of the baggage hall, providing three new baggage belts and increasing belt capacity by 40 per cent. One of the new belts is 55 metres long (the same length as the longest existing belt) and the other two are both dual feed belts at 75 metres each.

Dual feed belts enable baggage to be delivered to arriving passengers at twice the previous rate.

The footprint of the building is around one acre in size and the baggage system alone has around 700 metres of conveyors, including carousels. Passengers benefit from new dedicated and centrally located baggage enquiry desks, a bureau de change, cashpoint and new toilets.
In addition, the new extension also has Gatwick’s first dedicated ‘out of gauge’ belt for large items such as skis, surf boards and even canoes.

Extensive energy saving measures have been designed into the project, including efficient lighting settings and air conditioning systems that adjust to the building’s level of occupancy and usage.

Work is continuing to refurbish the existing baggage reclaim areas, with the installation of new larger baggage belts to improve delivery for passengers arriving in the South Terminal. Once completed, total capacity will be increased from handling baggage for 2200 people per hour to 3500.

Key facts:

  • Taylor Woodrow Construction were the principal contractors on the project
  • The structure is a steel frame, with composite metal deck floor construction containing around 800 tonnes of steel
  • The architects were GMW

Pier 3

The area previously known as the Satellite at South Terminal, has now been renamed Pier 3 and has undergone extensive refurbishment. Passengers now access the circular building by moving walkways and the gate rooms have improved lighting, seating areas and signage.
As part of this programme, Gatwick has installed new glass-sided air-bridges, instead of the traditional steel walkway, providing arriving and departing passengers with spectacular views of the airport and airfield.

Key facts:

  • The glass air-bridges are designed and manufactured in Spain by BAA framework supplier ThyssenKrupp
  • They are shipped complete to the UK and installed by Taylor Woodrow
  • The process to remove each old air-bridge and install the new bridge takes only 10 days

Car Parks

As part of a £5.5 million programme, the four short-term multi-storey car parks have all undergone extensive refurbishment.

The major re-fit of all four car parks incorporates energy saving lighting, clearer signage, electronic displays showing the number of spaces free on each level and improved security measures.

Future plans

The framework for Gatwick’s future growth is set out in the Government’s 2003 White Paper, ‘The Future of Air Transport’. It states that if a third runway at London Heathrow is ruled out, adding a second runway at Gatwick would be proposed. BAA has safeguarded land for this purpose, but will not in any event seek to overturn the existing planning agreement preventing construction of a second Gatwick runway before 2019.

Gatwick’s focus is on delivering excellent customer service. Projects to improve terminal facilities and retail areas will continue, along with the development of products that bring direct time saving benefits to travellers. These include; day before check-in, common use self service and home check-in (including home-printed boarding cards).

The airport is committed to growing its route network with the addition of new services and route frequencies.

In addition to two new routes to JFK with Delta Airlines and Zoom and a new service to Hong Kong with Oasis, the airport is also welcoming new services to Muscat with Gatwick newcomer Oman, Cluj in Romania with Tarom, the cities of Oslo and Stavanger with Norweigan Airlines and Katowicz with Wizz.

Gatwick’s traffic is now mixed between regular scheduled services, amounting to 47% of passengers, charter amounting to 25% and low-cost, 28%. Gatwick’s flagship carriers include British Airways, the airport’s largest operator, American Airlines, Emirates, Delta Airlines, Continental, Virgin Atlantic Airways, Qatar, First Choice, Thomsonfly and easyJet, which has its largest base at Gatwick operating to almost 40 destinations.

Gatwick has excellent public transport links and has an objective to increase the proportion of passengers using public transport, to travel to and from the airport, to 40 per cent by the time air passenger numbers are forecast to reach 40 million, in around 10 years time.

The number of passengers using public transport during 2005-2006 increased to 32 per cent, as a result of a positive public transport strategy. Integral to this strategy was BAA Gatwick’s successful campaign to retain the Gatwick Express as a dedicated non stop service from the airport to the heart of London, for passengers and airport staff.

Supporting the public transport initiative, BAA Gatwick has last month (October) opened an Onward Travel Centre offering passengers a wide choice of surface transport services in one place.

Key environmental, social and economic issues are also high on the airport’s agenda and Gatwick sets challenging environmental targets in the prudent use of natural resources, in managing waste, air quality and noise.

Gatwick is integral to the economic and social life of the south east and the UK as a whole. As the UK’s second busiest airport, more people begin or end their leisure travel at Gatwick than any other UK airport. The challenge is to grow the airport in a sustainable way, balancing environmental and community responsibilities with the benefits that a busy international airport brings to the region.

About the author

Andy Flower joined BAA in 2003 as Managing Director of Aberdeen Airport, before taking up his appointment as Managing Director of Gatwick Airport in January this year. In previous appointments in the aerospace and defence industry and the telecommunications business, he had roles in operations, engineering, human resources and marketing. Andy is a chartered engineer by training.

Since being appointed, Andy has been committed to making sure passengers have a bright and positive experience when travelling through Gatwick. He is also determined to promote the benefits, to the airport’s stakeholders, of having Gatwick in the region as a gateway to great destinations.

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