Second Runway Key to Resurrecting Gatwick Long-haul Traffic Levels

DALLAS —London’s Gatwick Airport (LGW) hopes to bring back long-haul traffic to pre-pandemic levels and is seeking permission to use its second runway as a key step. At this week’s Airlines 2023 Conference in London, Gatwick’s chief executive, Stewart Wingate, announced that a development consent order has been filed with the UK government.

The process to explore reopening the second runway will take approximately a year: The initial examination stage will take six months, followed by a three-month period during which the planning inspectorate will put forth various proposals, after which the secretary of state will have a further three months to review and endorse the decision.

It is worth noting that currently, the northern runway is limited to acting as a taxiway, only available when the main runway is out of use. The planning application proposes repositioning the center line of the northern runway 12 meters north to allow dual runway operations, aligning with international safety standards.

If all goes well, the second runway could be operational sometime in 2024.

Gatwick Airport. Photo: Gatwick Airport.

Short-haul Traffic Already at Pre-pandemic Levels cites Wingate as saying LGW’s short-haul network has already recovered. As noted in Gatwick’s 2022 financial report, the airport’s short-haul network showed a strong recovery in 2022 and is at 92% of flights flown pre-pandemic. Some airlines have, in fact, exceeded their 2019 passenger levels. The airport now serves 156 destinations, with easyJet (U2) flying 72% of those routes.

In 2022, LGW also completed an innovative project to resurface its main runway in half the time and for half the cost of traditional methods.

LGW Map: Lido Flight Charts
LGW Map: Lido Flight Charts

Second Runway: Only One Part of Long-haul Traffic Improvement

While securing approvals to use the north runway, Gatwick is focusing on other improvements to support both short- and long-haul traffic growth. These include ramping up the use of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) as part of the airport’s decarbonization agenda. The Sussex airport committed to accelerating and achieving net zero for its scope one and two emissions by 2030, a decade ahead of its previous target.

Recent improvements to the M23 and M25 roadways, adding new trains, and extending contactless Oyster rail payments will also support accelerated growth.

Queen Elizabeth II opened the airport, as it is known today, in June 1958. Over the past 60 years​,​ Gatwick has grown from serving 186,000 passengers to over 40 million passengers annually. Both the North Terminal and the South Terminal have 31 check-in stands each, with an additional 57 remote stands available.

Featured image: London Gatwick Airport control tower. Photo: Gatwick Airport.

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