Gatwick Airport

Gatwick Airport is the second largest airport in England, behind the world dominant Heathrow. It holds the title as the biggest single runway airport in the world, dealing with the most passengers and freight. However, its position as England’s second airport was not always secure.

Gatwick was initially developed as a private airport, however it was used for military and cargo purposes during the Second World War. This soon lead to a usage as a commercial airfield; however, it was not as popular as the nearby London Stansted, which for a time looked to be the best alternative to the already dominant Heathrow. However, Gatwick was saved in 1950 when the Government decided it should undergo a regeneration and to cement its status as England’s secondary airport. The renovation cost some L7 million, and was completed in 1958. Since then, Gatwick has never looked back.

Gatwick Airport LondonThe airport now deals with over 30 million passengers a year, with a peak of 35 million in 2007. Considering that Gatwick Airport only has one runway, this is a quite staggering amount and is higher than many airports with two or more runways. Technically, Gatwick does have two runways, with a smaller, northern runway available for use in an emergency. However, the two runways cannot run concurrently as they are not spaced far enough apart, so Gatwick is deemed to be one runway. The north runway is used infrequently, and is not as technologically advanced as the main choice. It is rarely used, serving merely as a back up.

Gatwick has two terminals, simply known as the North Terminal and the South Terminal. There are no current plans for expansion; rather, Gatwick is concentrating on what it has – in 2005, a huge renovation of the South terminal was completed, with the baggage collection hall nearly doubling in size. Passengers can travel between the two terminals using a driver less vehicle, which runs on a raised platform and departs every few minutes – the journey takes around three minutes, and is free.

At present, Gatwick is not equipped to handle flights using the unusually large Airbus A380 aircraft – many airports have had to build new terminals to do so, and there are no plans for Gatwick to do so. The United Kingdom is, however, served by the new Airbus; Heathrow built a specific pier for it in 2007.

Until 2008, Gatwick was owned a run by BAA, who also own six other UK airports included Heathrow and London Stansted. Following a report by the Competition Commission, this was deemed to be too large a market share and BAA were told to sell several airports. On September 17th 2008, BAA announced that they will sell Gatwick to meet this ruling, though they would remain in possession of London Heathrow. Oddly enough, this announcement came in the 50th year of Gatwick’s service, having officially been opened by Queen Elizabeth II on June 9th 1958. The airport has since been valued at L1.8 billion.

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