60 Years Of London Gatwick

To mark the 60th anniversary of the official opening of London Gatwick airport on 9 June 1958, we take look at key moments in its history.

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London Gatwick Check In Area 1958
London Gatwick Check In Area 1958 (Image Credit: Gatwick Airport)

Saturday 9 June 2018 marks the 60th anniversary of London Gatwick airport in its current form.

The airport first started operations on 6 June 1936. Her Majesty The Queen officially opened what is now known as the South Terminal on 9 June 1958.

In its 60 year history Gatwick has been the birthplace of Freddie Lakers’ “SkyTrain” service from London to New York in 1977 and Virgin Atlantic’s inaugural flight to Newark in 1984. It has seen easyJet grow from next to nothing to operating nearly half of all flights at the airport within the space of 20 years.

It has seen a near complete exodus of North American routes to Heathrow after EU-US Open Skies in 2008, only for Norwegian to launch routes many key American gateways. It has seen BA slash capacity at the airport by almost half at the start of this century, and to rebound in recent years.

Gatwick has also been home to many former airlines including British Caledonian, Dan-Air, GB Airways, Monarch, XL airways and Zoom.

Gatwick has also welcomed Heads of State to the UK including French President Charles de Gaulle in 1961 and US President John F Kennedy in 1963.

So let’s take a look back at the airport’s history over the past sixty years:
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BA to move to Gatwick South terminal in November 2016

London Air Travel » London Gatwick

London Gatwick Airfield (Image Credit: London Gatwick Airport)
London Gatwick Airfield (Image Credit: London Gatwick Airport)

British Airways today, 19 January 2015, confirmed that is to move its entire London Gatwick operation from the North terminal to the South terminal at an as yet unspecified date in November 2016.

The purpose of the move is to allow easyJet to consolidate its London Gatwick operation in the North terminal.

Gatwick Airport has confirmed details of the move.

BA will benefit from an upgraded check-in area and a new lounge facility for eligible passengers. BA has confirmed that a new lounge for eligible customers will be constructed in the North terminal.

As BA’s London Gatwick operation involves approximately 60 departures a day, we expect the move will take place in phases.

Perhaps what is more significant are easyJet’s ambitions once it consolidates operations in one terminal.

easyJet currently has 45% of departure and arrival slots at Gatwick, compared to just 16% for BA. Ten years ago, BA had 30% of departure and arrival slots, and easyJet had 13%.

easyJet has made a number of moves in recent years to move it closer to the traditional full service carrier model, such as offering allocated seating and fast track ground facilities.

The one thing easyJet doesn’t do is interline with other airlines (this is where an airline will transfer your bag to another airline’s flight on a connecting ticket). Nor does it codeshare with other airlines. Nor does it offer connections.

Currently, a passenger wishing to fly from say, Edinburgh to Tel Aviv via Gatwick would have to “self-connect” and buy two separate tickets (and hope for the best if things go wrong!).

If easyJet was to move to a traditional “hub” model offering connections and codeshares with other airlines, this could radically change its position in the market and that of London Gatwick. There is certainly precedent for a low cost carrier to do this, as Vueling does at its hub in Barcelona.

This would of course add cost and complexity to easyJet’s operation (which it may be keen to avoid) but connecting traffic could support many more routes from Gatwick.

One other point of note is that Aer Lingus, currently a takeover target for BA’s parent company International Airlines Group, also operates in the South terminal and a consolidation of operations may allow for greater co-operation between BA and Aer Lingus at Gatwick.

Could Gatwick persuade one of the alliances to defect?

London Air Travel » London Gatwick

London Gatwick Airfield (Image Credit: London Gatwick Airport)
London Gatwick Airfield (Image Credit: London Gatwick Airport)

On Monday 23 September 2013, the Financial Times featured an interesting story where the Chief Executive of London Gatwick, Stewart Wingate, postulated, known in politics and the press as “kite flying”, that if a second runway for Gatwick was approved, one of the “Big Three” airline alliances could be persuaded to defect from Heathrow airport.

Is there any mileage in this?

Put simply, I don’t think so.

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easyJet to expand at Gatwick as Flybe sells off slots

London Air Travel » London Gatwick

London Gatwick Airfield (Image Credit: London Gatwick Airport)
London Gatwick Airfield (Image Credit: London Gatwick Airport)

easyJet is to expand further at London Gatwick airport next year as Flybe has today announced it is to sell to easyJet its portfolio of 25 take off and landing slots at the airport for £20m.

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