Gatwick is the busiest single-runway airport in the world, handling over 31 million passengers annually, flying to around 200 destinations. Charter airlines are generally not allowed to operate from Heathrow and many use Gatwick instead as their base. Many flights to and from the USA also use Gatwick because of restrictions on transatlantic operations from Heathrow.
Recent proposals to build a second runway at Gatwick led to protests about the increased noise and pollution and demolition of houses. An agreement was reached with the local council not to build a second runway until at least 2019. In common with many airports car parking is in limited supply, in part due to local planning restrictions, and facilites are full to capacity in the summer months.
The name "Gatwick" dates back to 1241, and was the name of a manor on the site of today's airport until the 19th century. In 1890, the manor was converted into a race course, which hosted the Aintree Grand National for several years during World War I.
In 1930, the Surrey Aero Club was incorporated at Gatwick, and pilots began flying their aeroplanes to the races. In 1933, the race course was purchased by an outside investor and redesigned as a full airport. The Air Ministry approved commercial flights from Gatwick the following year, and by 1936, scheduled flights were operating to several destinations on the Continent. A circular terminal called "The Beehive" was built, with a subway connecting it to Gatwick railway station so that passengers could travel from Victoria Station to the aircraft without stepping into the elements.
After World War II, Gatwick was re-designated as an alternative to Heathrow Airport, and the airport was closed for an extensive (£7.8 million) renovation between 1956 and 1958. The new Gatwick was the world's first airport with a direct railway connection, and was one of the first to use a fully enclosed pier-based terminal design with covered jetbridges connecting waiting areas directly to aircraft.
The airport has two terminals, North and South, which are connected by an automatic monorail.
Construction began on the North Terminal in 1983: it was the largest construction project south of London to have taken place in the 1980s. The terminal was opened by Queen Elizabeth II in 1988 and was expanded in 1991.
First Choice Airways (Alicante, Antayla, Antigua, Arrecife, Banjul, Cancun, Faro, Fuerteventura, Funchal, Goa, Holguin, Las Palmas, Malaga, Male, Malta, Monastir, Palma de Mallorca, Paphos, Porlamar, Puerto Plata, Sanford, Sharm el Sheikh, St. Thomas, Tenerife)
Flyjet (Accra, Amritsar)
GB Airways (Agadir, Alicante, Almeria, Arrecife, Faro, Fez, Funchal, Gibraltar, Las Palmas, Mahon, Malaga, Malta, Marrakesh, Montpellier, Murcia, Nantes, Oporto, Palma de Mallorca, Paphos, Seville, Tenerife, Tunis, Valencia)
The main pier of the South Terminal was built during the 1956-58 construction of Gatwick. In 1962, two additional piers were added, and in 1983, a circular satellite pier was opened, connected to the main terminal by the UK's first automated people mover system. The original pier was extensively refurbished in 1985, and the entire terminal is currently under a second refurbishment programme.
Britannia Airways (Accra, Alicante, Arrecife, Barbados, Cancun, Faro, Fuerteventura, Funchal, Hurghada, Las Palmas, Luxor, Malaga, Malta, Mombasa, Monastir, Montego Bay, Palma de Mallorca, Paphos, Puerto Plata, Punta Cana, Rovaniemi, Sanford, Santa Cruz, Sharm el Sheikh, Tenerife, Varadero)
Both terminals at Gatwick offer a range of facilities for travellers. Business travellers are catered for by several executive lounges offering peace and quiet and modern business facilities. There is also a conference and business centre with meeting facilities and business services. Business Travellers are also offered Fast Track which enables an efficient car park to airport to check-in and then to flight sevice.
Children are catered for with facilities for baby changing and feeding and there are play areas and video games to keep them amused. The airport also has Skyview in the South Terminal which offers views across the airfield and interactive activities.
Disabled passengers can travel easily through Gatwick too with all areas being accessible and added special needs facilities.
There is a huge range of shops and restaurants throughout both terminals at Gatwick.