Gatwick Airport, is located 3.1 miles (5 kilometres) north of the centre of Crawley, West Sussex, and 28.4 mi (45.7 km) south of Central London. Also known as London Gatwick, it is London's second largest international airport and second busiest by total passenger traffic in the United Kingdom after Heathrow. Furthermore, Gatwick is Europe's leading airport for point-to-point flights and has the world's busiest single-use runway averaging 52 aircraft movements an hour. Its two terminals – North and South – cover an area of 810,000 square feet (75,000 square metres) and 1.3 million sq ft (120,000 m2) respectively.
In 2011, over 33.6 million passengers passed through Gatwick.
Charter airlines generally prefer Gatwick over Heathrow as a base for London and the South East of England. 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. As of mid-April 2012, US Airways and Sun Country Airlines will be 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, Monarch Airlines and Virgin Atlantic, as well as charter airlines including 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 airline business models: full service, low/no frills and charter.As of January 2011, these respectively accounted for 37, 51 and 12% of total passenger traffic.
BAA Limited and its predecessors, the British Airports Authority and BAA plc, owned and operated Gatwick continuously from 1 April 1966 until 2 December 2009. On 17 September 2008, BAA announced it would sell Gatwick following a report by the Competition Commission into BAA's market dominance in London and the South East. 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 Airport, for £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 was formally completed on 3 December 2009. On this day, Gatwick's ownership passed from BAA to GIP. In early 2010, GIP reportedly sold minority stakes in Gatwick to the National Pension Service of Korea and Abu Dhabi Investment Authority. On 18 June 2010, it was reported that CalPERS, California's and the US's biggest state pension fund, had bought a 12.7% equity stake in Gatwick Airport from GIP. An announcement made in the Financial Times on 21 December 2010 stated that the Future Fund, a sovereign wealth fund set up by the Australian government, planned to buy a 17.2% stake in Gatwick Airport from GIP.
Following the sale of the airport to GIP, Gatwick's new owners announced their intention to proceed with a previously agreed £1 billion investment programme to upgrade and expand the airport's existing infrastructure to transform the passenger experience. It is hoped that this will firmly establish Gatwick as the airport of choice for air travellers whose journey begins and/or ends in London and other parts of South East England. According to Virgin Atlantic communications director Paul Charles, the prospect of offering much better facilities to Gatwick's airlines and passengers as a result of the change in ownership presents a long-term opportunity to leapfrog Heathrow in terms of airport infrastructure and passenger amenities. It is expected that GIP will use its relationships to persuade new and existing airlines to consider launching additional routes from Gatwick, reinstating services suspended as a result of the global recession in the wake of the financial crisis that began in 2007 and Open Skies and/or expanding their existing flying programme from the airport in the near future.
February 2010: It was reported that GIP sold minority stakes of 12% and 15% to South Korean National Pension Service and Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, for £100 million and £125 million, respectively. These were sold in Gatwick's – rather than GIP's – name. The sale of these stakes is 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 in additional investors in the airport, GIP aims to retain management control.
18 June 2010: It was announced that Californian state pension fund CalPERS had spent approximately US$155 million (£104.8 million) on acquiring a 12.7% stake in Gatwick Airport from GIP, marking the US$200 billion fund's first direct infrastructure investment.
22 June 2010: Gatwick Airport Limited launched a new competitive brand featuring the tagline "YOUR LONDON AIRPORT – Gatwick" alongside a rebrand from "London Gatwick Airport" to the original "Gatwick Airport". Created by advertising agency Lewis Moberly, the new blue-and-white corporate identity is intended as a challenger brand to BAA and aims to differentiate Gatwick from rival Heathrow in support of majority owner GIP's corporate goal to establish Gatwick as London's airport of choice for passengers and airlines.
16 November 2010: Gatwick Airport Limited announced the appointment of Guy Stephenson as its new commercial director, with responsibility for the airport's airline route development and car parking strategies.
21 December 2010: The Financial Times reported that the A$69 billion (£44 billion) Future Fund, a sovereign wealth fund set up by the Australian government in 2006, intended to buy a 17.2% stake in Gatwick Airport from GIP for £145 million. This transaction will complete GIP's equity syndication process for Gatwick. Although this will reduce GIP's stake to 42%, the private equity firm's extra voting rights will enable it to retain control of the airport's board.
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.
The airport is one of three UK airports to feature body scanners; initially, they are located only in the North Terminal.
Incidents and accidents
15 September 1936 – a British Airways Ltd de Havilland DH 86 operating a night mail flight to Germany crashed on takeoff, killing the airline's chief pilot and two members of the aircraft's crew.
November 1936 – a British Airways Ltd Fokker F 12 crashed in a wood 4.5 mi (7.2 km) south of Gatwick whilst executing its final approach to the airport under a low ceiling in poor visibility, killing both pilots and severely injuring the engineer
17 February 1959 – a Turkish Airlines Vickers Viscount 794D (registration: TC-SEV) on an international charter flight crashed in heavy fog at Newdigate, Surrey, whilst approaching to land at Gatwick. The plane hit some trees. Fourteen of 2
2 September 1963 – an Iberia Lockheed L-1049G Super Constellation (registration: EC-AMQ) leased by Aviaco and operating a charter flight from Barcelona, Spain, brushed trees on Russ Hill while on final approach to London Gatwick. Although the aircraft sustained minor damage as a result of this incident, which occurred during the descent, ca. 220 ft (67 m) above and 1.75 nautical miles (3.2 km) from the runway threshold, it landed safely and none of the 75 passengers on board were injured.
5 January 1969 – a Boeing 727-113C (registration: YA-FAR) operating flight 701 of Ariana Afghan Airlines arriving from Frankfurt Rhein-Main Airport, Germany, crashed into a house in Fernhill near Horley, Surrey, in low visibility. The flaps were not extended to maintain flight at final approach speed. Forty-eight of the 62 on board died as well as two on the ground.
28 January 1972 – a British Caledonian Vickers VC10-1109 (registration: G-ARTA) sustained severe structural damage as a result of an exceptionally hard landing at Gatwick at the end of a short ferry flight from Heathrow, where the aircraft had been diverted due to Gatwick being fog-bound and where all passengers had disembarked. A survey of the aircraft's damage revealed that its airframe had been bent out of shape and that it required extensive repairs to be restored to an airworthy condition. The airline's senior management decided that these repairs were not cost-effective. The aircraft was written off and a decision taken to have it scrapped. It was eventually broken up at Gatwick in 1975.
20 July 1975 – a British Island Airways (BIA) Handley Page Dart Herald 201 (registration: G-APWF) 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 2,490 ft (760 m) and appeared airborne for 411 ft (125 m) 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.