Gatwick goes after the business traveller – and rejects “Heathwick”
Gatwick wants to get more business passengers, and can do so better now that it is no longer owned by BAA. The airport has been upgrading and improving facilities for premium travellers as well as hoping to increase routes to business destinations. This is partly to smooth out traveller numbers across the year, as Gatwick gets most passengers at holiday times. Gatwick has also said the Heathwick idea would not be practical, and dismisses it.
Gatwick goes after the business traveller
by Sara Turner
Gatwick Airport has decided it is time to engage with the corporate travel community and reposition itself as London’s airport of choice for the business traveller.
The London airport wants to build on its recent success in attracting new carriers, including Hong Kong Airlines with its all-business class service.
At a conference in London attended by a number of senior figures from the business travel industry, the airport’s CEO Stewart Wingate said it is time to “reach out to markets that haven’t been exploited in the past, because Gatwick has been a little bit quiet”.
He said that Gatwick is now “free to compete”, having been cut loose from the “monopoly” that was BAA.
To attract more corporate business, the airport has undertaken a number of upgrades, including the installation of fast track security channels for premium travellers and the opening of two new executive lounges by No. 1 Traveller.
According to Wingate, Gatwick is a viable alternative to Heathrow for business travel, and is keen to grow the variety of routes to business cities it offers.
And unlike Heathrow, it has capacity to fill, he said, citing a figure of 30% growth capability.
When asked why Paris, a key business city, was not currently served from the airport, however, he said it reflected a growing trend to travel shorter distances within Europe by train.
Instead of attempting European connections, continued Wingate, Gatwick hopes to grow the routes it offers to the Far East, with the launch of flights by Vietnam Airlines, Air Asia and Hong Kong Airlines examples of success so far.
Guy Stephenson, Gatwick’s chief operating officer, admitted part of the reasoning behind attracting business travellers was to “smooth out seasonality” at the airport.
Often thought of as a leisure hub, Gatwick is by far at its busiest during the holiday seasons, admitted Stephenson, but he hopes this will change.
Gatwick CEO dismisses Heathwick plot
by Sara Turner
Stewart Wingate has rejected a high-speed rail link between Heathrow and Gatwick to create a mega hub as a possible solution to lack of airport capacity in the South-East.
Speaking to ABTN, he said “any discussion on capacity is a good discussion”, but the idea of a Heathwick hub is too expensive.
“The estimated cost of linking Gatwick to Heathrow via a high speed dedicated rail service is about £5 billion,” he said.
“Surely you would invest that £5 billion into transport infratructure to get greater benefits elsewhere.”
Wingate also said it would be impractical in operational terms.
“From a convenience perspective as a passenger, to have this virtual hub separated by notionally a 15-minute journey, seems extraordinary and not competitive versus other hubs around the world,” he said.
“That’s before you even think about the logistics of how on earth would you transfer luggage from one airport to another within such a short connecting time.”
Wingate added that he thought Heathwick was a “concept that was floated”, but “we don’t expect to see it go much further”.
The idea of a joined-up mega hub, which has emerged as part of the DfT’s consultation on the future of aviation policy in the UK, has also been rejected by airlines.
However, some in the business travel industry see it as a possible solution to long-term capacity constraints in the South-East – to find out why read Mike Platt’s latest column.