Well, this is interesting. Gatwick Airport has finally had 45 million passengers through their doors in a 12 month period. We watch developments like this closely – footfall brings us extra passengers in our own cars. Annual passenger numbers increased by 3.2 million (7.7%) in the year ending March 31 2017. Gatwick attributes this growth to “more planes, bigger planes and fuller planes”.
Long-haul passenger traffic was up 13.6% with one in five passengers at the airport now travelling on long-haul flights.
As capacity issues become a challenge, Gatwick expects to see considerable growth in passenger numbers as airlines swap short-haul for long-haul services.
Norwegian’s new route to Buenos Aires using a B787 Dreamliner, for example, will replace a short-haul European service in Gatwick’s schedule.
The airport will also welcome the world’s longest low-cost long-haul route this September when the same airline introduces services to Singapore.
As well as Norwegian’s expansion at the airport, China Airlines is launching a new service to Taipei in December, taking Gatwick’s long-haul routes to 60.
“Our continued growth and success is a testament to record investment, increased competition, and our renewed focus on efficiency and service,” says Stewart Wingate, CEO of Gatwick Airport.
“It is a simple fact that, of the top 20 airports in the world by passenger growth, Gatwick is the only one with a single runway. We continue to offer the UK a financeable and deliverable second runway scheme which we stand ready to deliver should the government give us the go-ahead.”
Wingate continues: “Gatwick has a bright future. We will invest £240 million this year as we continue our £2.5 billion programme to improve our facilities, improve our service and passenger experience, and improve our performance so we can realise our ambitious plans to grow even further.”
Whilst Gatwick should be rightly proud of this achievement, they are still a more than just a few million behind Heathrow. The Civil Aviation Authority reported that for Nov 2015 – Oct 2016, Heathrow airport had 75.3 million passengers. This number is set to grow exponentially though, as backers have committed to invest a further £650m into airport with developments taking place in 2019. As far back as last summer, there were at least 30 airlines waiting to fly from it, but they could not be accommodated due to the lack of runway capacity. The consortium of backers have already demonstrated their commitment to the development of Heathrow – more than £11bn of private investment has been put into Heathrow in the past decade alone.
Sheikh Abdulla Bin Mohammed Bin Saud Al-Thani, chief executive of Qatar Investment Authority, said: “Our investment in Heathrow is much more than just an investment in one of the world’s great airports – it’s an investment in Britain’s connections to the world. As the UK reshapes its role in the world, we confirm our commitment as proud partners of a great trading nation.”
We can’t help but wonder if money alone is enough for Gatwick to make up the difference – Heathrow’s head start in funding and development pace gives us cause to think it will always be the one to chase.
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