Gatwick airport is one of the busiest airports in the United Kingdom and if you’re flying to England or indeed live in the south of England you may find yourself here one day.
So with this in mind I’ve created a little guide to Gatwick Airport to help you understand more about why its here, whats there and how you get around.
Why does Gatwick Airport exist?
You’ll be surprised to hear we have horse racing to thank for Gatwick Airport. The land was once owned by the De Gatwick family who owned a large manor house. The land had been in the family since the 1200s but it wasn’t util the 19th Century that the family sold off much of the flat lands around the house, one such area to the Gatwick Race Course Company which owned the land right up until the 1940s. During that time the famous Grand National was run there 3 times in the early 20th century. Unfortunately nothing remains of the original racecourse but you will find the “Flying Horse” pub in the South Terminal departure lounge.
The original “Beehive” terminal before the renovations in the 50s. Built in 1935.
During the 1920s flying became a daring past-time of the rich and an aerodrome at Hunts Green Farm, just next to the racecourse, was build. In fact the aerodrome shared many of the buildings at the racecourse for some years. In 1930 it became the “Gatwick Aerodrome” when a change of ownership helped to make a viable business from running a small airport. By 1934 commercial flights were taking off from here, to Belfast and Paris. Flights were so successful that in 1935 the “Allied British Airways” company merged 3 airlines in to one, now known as British Airways. A railway station opened on the London to Brighton line and the number of commercial flights increased dramatically. So much so the airport was shut briefly to expand and was once the most modern airport in the country.
Unfortunately a couple of accidents closed the airport briefly and the second world war meant the airport was taken over by the British Military, it wasn’t until 1946 that commercial flights returned to Gatwick, although a much more limited service than before. I wasn’t until the 50s and a string of renovation works that the modern Gatwick you see today came in to existence. The race course was bought and demolished completely, building a much larger single runway, perfect for commercial use. In the 60s and 70s it was expanded again as it soon became London’s 2nd airport after Heathrow. A second terminal was built to accommodate the increase in flights and with the boom in the 70s and 80s of affordable package holidays Gatwick became the airport of choice for many low cost carriers.
What facilities are there at Gatwick?
Gatwick has 2 terminals called North and South. The North has a train station with trains direct in to London. The South is linked by a mono-rail shuttle service that takes a couple of minutes to travel between the two. In recent years the number of VIP lounges and pay-to-enter lounges has increased dramatically. The airport has expanded to accommodate more shopping, more places to eat and even more experiences too. There’s now a Spa at the airport offering massages, facial treatments and pedicures too.
Of course you probably won’t have time for all of that, more likely you’ll be using Gatwick parking facilities. In recent years the car parking options have expanded immensely with valet services and a number of hotels popping up in nearby villages and towns, all claiming to be the best parking option. Personally when I drive to Gatwick I prefer to use the car parks that are closest to the terminal. It makes getting there that little bit easier and when you’re jet lagged on your return you’ll be so glad your car is just a short walk away! There’s 5 car parks all within a 5 minute walk of the terminals so I recommend going for one of those. They’re all secure and barrier controlled, most of them are multi-storey too so your car is out of the rain. Check out this video for more info on parking at Gatwick.
Who flies in and out of Gatwick Airport?
Gatwick used to be the number 1 airport in the UK for flights to the United States. These days it’s probably the most diverse airport in the world with long haul, business and low cost carriers taking people all over the world. It’s most popular destinations are still those package holidays to the spanish mainland and Mediterranean islands. You’ll find a lot of easyJet flights here as well and its also home to a high number of Virgin Atlantic flights to the states and the Caribbean. Thomson Airways, Monarch Airlines and Thomas Cook Airlines are the most likely to fly you to the Med, while British Airways still fly a high number of flights out of Gatwick, despite having their very own terminal at Heathrow T5. You can find a full list of destinations and airlines here.
Gatwick Airport fun stats
Here’s a few quick stats to impress your friends with!
- Gatwick is the busiest single-runway airport in the world, although it has two runways, it can only operate one at a time
- In 2013 a whopping 35,444,206 travelled through Gatwick!
- 250,520 flights took off from Gatwick in 2013, that’s 686 a day, more than 50 an hour at peak time
- The original monorail train was replaced in 2009 after it had travelled 2.5 million miles! To the moon and back more than 6 times!