Gatwick Moves With the Market

Spencer Sheen, head of retail at Gatwick, discussed the changes that have been put in place since the airport came under new management in 2009.

Gatwick is now the world’s busiest single-runway airport, with 43 airlines flying 38.4 million passengers to 65 countries annually. The airport’s share of the UK market has risen from 21.7% to 23% since 2010, while Heathrow’s has fallen from 55.9% to 55.3%, and Stansted’s has stayed mostly flat (14.2% to 14.5%). Since coming under new management, £1 billion ($1.55 billion) has been spent on improving the airport, with a further £800 million ($1.24 billion) to be spent over the next two-to-three years.

Technology is integral to the customer experience at Gatwick, and Sheen gave some examples. Budget airline easyJet has updated its app to include maps of the Gatwick terminals, which will direct passengers to their gates. Gate alerts and information have also been added, so people don’t need to keep checking flight information displays (FIDs). One of the first tweets ever sent about the updated app thanked both easyJet and Gatwick for it, because the passenger had time for another beer! “If there are 20 million more people with time for another beer at Gatwick, I’m happy”, Sheen said.

Looking at check-in areas, easyJet is in the process of building a new one at Gatwick North, which will handle all of the airline’s flights in the future (they are currently split between the North and South terminals). The new area will have screens showing the wait time for all of the different lanes. Virgin has also renovated its check-in area recently; the screens behind the desks show branding and can switch the traditional check-in areas to bag drop locations if necessary.

Other improvements include new FIDs and advertising displays around Gatwick, using Daktronics and Eye Airports screens. These have been installed in all shops and restaurants, to reassure passengers. Around 150 tablets are to be installed in departure lounges for a more personal experience. Finally, Eye Airports (with Proxama) is installing 200 beacons in the airports it operates in, including Gatwick, which can be used to direct passengers to their gates, as well as for advertising.

An audience asked about the external DOOH portfolio, and Sheen said that it will be refreshed in the next 6-12 months.