Today marks a significant milestone for London Gatwick, as the airport celebrates 60 years since it was officially opened in its current form.
Opened by Queen Elizabeth II on June 9th, 1958, Gatwick Airport became the first airport in the world to combine air, road and train travel in one close-knit single unit.
The £7.8 million construction project in 1958 transformed Gatwick into a global travel hub.
Taking over two-and-a-half years to complete and marking a new beginning for air travel in the UK, it became the first airport in the world to have a direct railway link, allowing passengers to enjoy a seamless journey from the moment their travels started.
Increased passenger demand and the modern age of air travel, with the introduction of aircraft like the Jumbo Boeing 747-400, required three runway extensions in 1964, 1970 and 1973 – the latter enabled non-stop flights from the US West Coast to begin.
John F Kennedy joins Harold Macmillan at Gatwick
With an ever-increasing number of passenger planes arriving daily, Gatwick opened its new control tower in 1984, which at the time of completion was the tallest in the UK.
In the same year the Gatwick Express was launched, further cementing Gatwick’s position as an accessible and leading destination for global travel.
In 1988, the Queen returned to open the £200 million North Terminal, which in turn saw the main terminal renamed as the South.
Just ten years later, a fourth runway extension was required, with easyJet’s residence at the airport starting the following year in 1999.
Pope John Paul II arrives at Gatwick Airport
The noughties began with extensions to both the North and South terminals, totalling £60 million.
This was followed by Gatwick building the biggest air passenger bridge in the world, which totals 194 metres in length.
In 2012, new owners Global Infrastructure Partners announced a £2.5 billion investment programme, further increasing Gatwick’s standing as a world-leading airport.
That year also saw Emirates start its scheduled A380 service at Gatwick – making it one of the very few airports at the time that could accommodate the next generation of passenger airplanes.
Four years later in 2016, Gatwick opened the world’s largest self-service bag drop zone.
Unmatched in size, innovation and ambition, this highlighted Gatwick’s commitment to putting passengers at the heart of its operations by dramatically reducing queues.
Diana, princess of Wales, visits Gatwick Airport
Finally came the big move.
Last year saw easyJet, British Airways and Virgin Atlantic all swap terminals – in just 72 hours – as part of the biggest operational reshuffle in Gatwick’s history.
Discussing the anniversary, Andy Pule, head of terminal operations at Gatwick, said: “Throughout its history, Gatwick has remained at the forefront of innovation, investing billions over the years to ensure that we are constantly pushing the boundaries and delivering the best possible experience for our passengers.
“It’s been an unbelievable 60 years at Gatwick and we have had a magnificent impact in making air travel accessible to millions of people.
“Now, as we move into our seventh decade, we look ahead to continuing our success story, with more global connections regularly being added to our thriving route network, and more pioneering solutions being provided to enhance the passenger experience.”
Queen Elizabeth II opened Gatwick Airport 60 years ago today
Gatwick Airport is the UK’s second largest airport and the most efficient single-runway airport in the world.
It serves more than 228 destinations in 74 countries for 45 million passengers a year on short and long-haul point-to-point services.
It is also a major economic driver for the UK contributing £5.3 billion to national GDP and generating 85,000 jobs nationally, with around 24,000 on the wider airport campus alone.
The airport is south of central London with excellent public transport links, including the Gatwick Express, and is part of the Oyster contactless payment network.
Gatwick Airport is owned by a group of international investment funds, of which Global Infrastructure Partners is the largest shareholder.
Find out more on the official website.