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Gatwick Airport; Development With A Passenger Focus

Aug 28, 2008
The second largest and busiest airport in the UK currently is Gatwick. The site only has a single runway but despite this is able to handle thirty five million passengers each year. Flights leave Gatwick to around two hundred different destination worldwide, with around two hundred and sixty thousand flight movements at the site annually. It was opened by the Queen in 1958 and this year celebrates its fiftieth year of operations. For the latter thirty of these years Gatwick has flown to destinations in the United States and other transcontinental destinations. Today it is a modern airport filled with auxiliary services such as car hire desks, shops and restaurants.

The name derives from the thirteenth century and in the Anglo-Saxon means dairy or goat farm. Originally, the site was used for horse racing and it was because of this usage an airfield was built up near the racecourse to accommodate pilots wishing to view the races. It was in the thirties that the site went from private to commercial usage, a circular terminal being built at the site; affectionately named the 'Beehive'. It was during this time that an underground passageway was built to link the airport to the racecourse's railway station. This was so passengers could make the transition from London Victoria without having to brave the elements. This subway was prone to flooding and as a result, London's predominant commercial airport was moved to a site in Crawley.

Despite this loss of commercial flights, Gatwick continued to be used as a military training school and a base for aircraft maintenance. This function continued during the war, when military aircraft were regularly serviced at Gatwick airport. It was after the war that the future of the site was called into question due to its drainage and fog problems, Stansted in Essex being preferred for development. Ultimately however the government chose the Gatwick site; investing nearly eight million pounds during the fifties to make it a major passenger airport, naturally the new terminals were filled with car hire desks, shops, and restaurants to improve the experience of travellers.

Since this period the site continued to develop, although restrictions on development have restricted it to its current boundaries, subsequently putting the option of a second operational runway out of the question. Even so a number of terminals have been built to accommodate the increase in passenger numbers and the provisions to meet the requirements of larger aircraft. As a matter of reference, the new terminal built during the eighties cost around two hundred million pounds, showing the stark contrast between construction costs in the fifties.

Today as well as having a large number of car hire provisions, Gatwick has a number of passenger facilities to improve the experience of travellers. Naturally shops and restaurants are in the terminals; additionally however areas have been built to keep children entertained whilst waiting for flights. Business travellers are well accommodated, with a number of executive lounges ensuring a stress free way to travel. A conference centre and many meeting rooms are also present to further accommodate the needs of corporate customers. Surrounding the airport are a number of hotels with rooms ranging from luxury suites to capsules for budget travellers.

As Gatwick has developed from an airfield purely servicing the needs of a racecourse to a major airport in its own right it has kept a focus on the importance of the passenger experience. Building large numbers of accompany services has been vital in this, meaning that today Gatwick is less of an airport but a fully functioning town with everything you would expect from a high street and commercial district.
About the Author
Air travel expert Thomas Pretty looks into why car hire Gatwick airport services have been instrumental in the site's development.
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