OPINION: What are the opportunities for Gatwick following the pandemic?

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Stephanie Wear, Gatwick’s new head of aviation development, discusses the gradual return of long-haul flights and the potential held by the airport’s Northern Runway Project

It is no secret that the aviation industry has been particularly hard hit by the pandemic and the UK has lagged behind other regions, which have started to rebound more quickly. However, I believe that the next 12 months have the potential to be incredibly exciting for Gatwick Airport. London is the largest market in the world and I have no doubt that it will recover sooner rather than later. With recovery and growth come opportunity and change, which is a wonderful challenge and one that Gatwick is ready to capitalize on.

I have only just started a new role at Gatwick Airport as head of aviation development, so in many respects am still finding my feet at the UK’s second-busiest airport. But already a number of enticing prospects are landing on my desk and the excitement of working in the largest aviation market in the world is palpable.

Future opportunities and growth
The one thing that’s really stood out over recent weeks is the desire for airlines to secure long-haul slots. In September, JetBlue launched a new service from Gatwick to John F Kennedy International Airport, New York, with plans to add further services over the next year. British Airways resumed services to Tampa and Orlando in November, further reconnecting London with the USA.

In December 2021, we will see the long-awaited return of Emirates, flying daily to Dubai on A380s, while Scoot, a subsidiary of Singapore Airlines, will become a new addition to the Gatwick family in December, as it starts a small number of flights to Bangkok. These will get into full swing again from March.

Also coming up, Air Transat will be starting weekly operations to Quebec from May to September – the only direct service between the two cities. The airline had previously resumed flights to Toronto in September.

Global connectivity is obviously something people have missed massively since the start of the pandemic, so this long-haul appetite from airlines and passengers is really promising as we look ahead.

But it’s not just the far-flung destinations that are looking to grow. Eastern Airways has secured a route connecting Gatwick with Newquay in Cornwall, which is excellent news for the southwest of the UK. Heading out into Europe, SunExpress will fly to Antalya and Dalaman from the summer. Another new venture, Biblio Travel, will begin flights to Cyprus later this year too.

Gatwick’s Northern Runway Project
Of course, it would be remiss of me not to mention the future prospects offered by Gatwick’s Northern Runway Project, which would see the existing emergency Northern Runway moved 12m, meeting international safety standards and enabling it to be used in conjunction with the Main Runway by 2029.

This would mean Gatwick could accommodate up to 75.6 million passengers by 2038 (a 62% increase on 2019) across 382,000 commercial ATMs (a 36% increase). Similar operations are already in place at major global airports such as Los Angeles International and San Francisco.

Our 12-week public consultation will close on December 1, and we’ve had a fantastic response from the local community and beyond so far, with many in support of our plans and others offering suggestions and voicing their concerns, which we will strive to address.

Our low-impact plans were backed vociferously by tourism bodies and business groups across the southeast of the UK, with the region set to see huge benefits should the project be successful.

Use of the Northern Runway would unlock hugely in-demand capacity at Gatwick and London, bringing in new airlines, new routes and more cargo, supporting a Global Britain.

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About Author

Stephanie Wear joined London Gatwick in November 2021 from Philadelphia International Airport, where she was director of air service development and cargo services.

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