LONDON — Gatwick Airport has announced this week an extra £1.11 billion of funding into the airport’s already existing 5-year plan, which is now valued at £3.14 billion in total.

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The extra £1.11 billion will be spent to support airline growth and enhance the airport experience for passengers by providing additional airport capacity as well as exploring how it can best use their infrastructure.

Gatwick’s Chief Executive Stewart Wingate announced the new five-year Capital Investment Plan (CIP) for Gatwick at the British-Irish Airports Expo in London, where he explained that the airport will spend £1.11 billion up to 2023, with £266 million planned for the 2018/19 financial year alone.

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The airport also believes that through the continuation of growth in their long-haul operation, they will be able to provide passenger numbers of 53 million by 2023 respectively. Since the airport changed ownership back in December 2009, total investment figure is now at £3.14 billion.

As stated in their release, they will be performing the following work on the airport over the next five years:

  • Pier 6 Western Extension – Phase 1 works start with enabling Pier 5 to handle the A380 aircraft so that it can move from its current home on Pier 6. This work will also involve the widening and reconfiguration of a taxiway to accommodate the 80-meter wingspan of the A380.
  • A new domestic arrivals facility, including a new baggage, reclaim in South Terminal.
  • A new mezzanine level extension in the North Terminal departure lounge to accommodate new restaurants.
  • Completion of the road system and taxiway entrance to the new Boeing aircraft hangar to connect the airfield with the new facility. The new hangar opens next year and will serve the growing number of long-haul aircraft operating from Gatwick.
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  • The trial of the biometric auto-boarding technology in the North Terminal and extending the roll-out of self-service bag drop across both Terminals.
  • Re-development of South Terminal hotel capacity.
  • Completion of the South Terminal long stays car park decking project, providing an additional 1,200 car parking spaces for summer 2018.
  • Projects to support greater use of electric vehicles, continuing to reduce the airport’s environmental impact and supporting our ambition to be the UK’s most sustainable airport.
  • Enabling works for Network Rail’s planned upgrade to the Gatwick station.
  • Investment in joint equipment for ground handlers to use at Gatwick which drives efficiency for airfield and baggage operations.
  • A new reception center for passengers with reduced mobility in the North Terminal.

Mr. Wingate commented on this plan saying:

“Gatwick is a major piece of national infrastructure, and our continued growth and ability to attract long-haul airlines is vital for the health of the UK economy, particularly in a post-Brexit world. We are exploring ways to grow our capacity, including developing new systems and processes to handle more passengers, and considering how we use all our existing infrastructure in the future. By committing to spending another £1.11 billion, Gatwick can continue to grow sustainably, attract new airlines and offer more global connections, while providing an excellent service to passengers.

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This year we will welcome new quieter aircraft with the introduction of A321s by easyJet and we are developing our infrastructure now, by reconfiguring airfield stands and planning for the construction of a major extension to our Pier 6 facility. These initiatives will support this next phase of growth. Looking beyond this capital investment programme, we welcome the Government’s support for airports making the best use of their existing runways and we will plan for our long-term future by developing a Masterplan later this year”.

Preparing for Competition with Heathrow?

The airport’s completion of the program by 2023 will mean that they can take on additional capacity and continue to compete with Heathrow. As Heathrow gets to full capacity in a post-expansion world, carriers no doubt will do the same and flock over to Gatwick. The airport, therefore, needs to prepare themselves for these eventualities.

Gatwick Airport, Control tower with aircraft in flight in the background, DP, 19 August 2004, (CGA857)

On top of this, with the carrier receiving new airlines and new aircraft from existing airlines, they need to be well-adapted and secure in the services that they know they can provide as an airport handler. It may not be as competitive as Heathrow, but they can continue with the growth that they have been receiving in recent years from the more low-cost carriers.

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As a new runway is ruled out in this expansion, it would not stop Gatwick to privately fund such an expansion down the line, subject to the regulatory approvals after the Third Runway at Heathrow has been built. For now, I think they are positioning themselves on the national stage to be ready to build a third runway and to have the facilities necessary so then more efficient operations can occur with a new runway.