Gatwick in bid to be London’s favourite airport

Big PR push to attract passengers and airlines

Last summer, Gatwick announced a big marketing plan in its bid to attract more travellers to its terminals. This summer, the airport is stepping up its bid to become London’s favourite airport.

The idea is to poach passengers and airlines from rival airport Heathrow, with a big self-improvement scheme, a £45 million terminal shuttle upgrade and faster and shorter security queues.

June sees the opening of a special entertainment area for teenagers, followed by the pay to enter No. 1 Traveller Lounge and spa which opens this summer.

Currently Heathrow has the most passenger traffic but a shift may be on the horizon. Already, British Airways is adding more direct services (to Mauritius and Malaga) from Gatwick rather than Heathrow, while EasyJet has introduced 18 new routes, all out of Gatwick. Air Berlin, a popular low cost German carrier that flies all over Europe, servicing numerous Greek and Spanish routes, has moved its key business flights to the Sussex airport, while Norwegian Air Shuttle is now basing itself out of Gatwick instead of Stansted.

Gatwick has even hired a leading PR company to make sure the first airport name on travellers’ lips is….Gatwick. In 2009 the airport came under private ownership (it was previously managed by BAA), and now all seems to be fair in love and war when it comes to airport rivalry.

“Now that Gatwick is under separate ownership, we are free to compete to become London’s airport of choice,” says Gatwick’s chief executive officer, Stewart Wingate, adding that average security queue times in 2010 were less than two minutes and that “passengers are welcomed by staff who know the importance of good customer service.”

Gatwick lost business last year, with flights grounded due to the ash cloud and cancellations because of snow, and was hit by European air traffic control strikes. Passenger numbers for 2010 were down by 800,000, compared to 2009 figures.

Meanwhile Heathrow is spending a cool £1billion a year on its new Terminal 2 and working on improving other terminals. A BAA spokesperson said, “Security queues are less than five minutes 97% of the time, and the time between planes landing and us having bags on the carousels is now at 31 minutes.”

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