London Gatwick Airport (UK) announced on June 13, 2018, it will invest up to $1.5 billion on increasing capacity and improving facilities till 2023, with $356 million planned for the current financial year alone. A sizeable amount of the money will be spent on upgrading its terminals. Is the hub aiming to catch up with the UK’s largest airport by passenger numbers – London’s Heathrow (LHR)?

At the British-Irish Airports Expo, which took place in London on June 12-13, 2018, Gatwick Airport (LGW) CEO, Stewart Wingate, revealed the new five-year Capital Investment Plan (CIP), overseeing sizeable sums to be spent on the hub’s expansion in what the official statement from Gatwick says are efforts “to support airline growth and enhance the airport experience for passengers”.

Among the wide-ranging projects, directed at servicing the growing number of long-haul aircraft and increasing passenger traffic, the hub will extend part of its North Terminal and build a new domestic arrivals facility in its South Terminal. Pier 6 will double in size and the A380 departure area will move to Pier 5, which will be upgraded with a widened taxiway to accommodate the 80-meter wingspan of the superjumbos.

Final work will be done on the road system and taxiway entrance to the new Boeing aircraft hangar, scheduled to open in 2019, as well as preparations for the introduction of A321s by the low-cost carrier EasyJet, as Gatwick is the airline’s largest operating base. And that is just some of the undertakings to be carried out at the airport, others including new technologies for improving efficiency of airfield and baggage operations, as well as passenger reception and access to the airport itself.

“We are exploring ways to grow our capacity, including developing new systems and processes to handle more passengers, and considering how we use all our existing infrastructure in the future,” says Wingate, emphasizing the airport’s role as a major driver for the UK’s economy, which is why the hub’s ability to attract long-haul airlines is projected as key part of the investment plans. According to the airport’s chief, “by committing to spend another £1.11 billion, Gatwick can continue to grow sustainably, attract new airlines and offer more global connections”.

The commitment will start with $356 million (£266 million) to be spent just in one year. And it will probably not end there, since the Capital Investment Program is a rolling five-year plan, which is published annually, regularly adjusted according to market conditions and operational needs. Already, the planned expenditures bring the total investment figure (since the airport changed ownership in December 2009) to $4.21 billion (£3.14 billion).

Perhaps the massive sums should not be surprising as Gatwick is the world’s busiest single-runway airport and hopes to grow its long-haul operation, expecting passenger numbers to increase from 45 million a year to nearly 53 million by 2023. Currently, it is the UK’s second-largest hub, with Heathrow Airport seeing 76 million passengers pass through its terminals annually.

London’s Gatwick Airport (LGW) is set to launch trials of electric-powered autonomous shuttle vehicles in the summer of 2018. It will be the first airport in the world to test such vehicles for transporting staff across the airfield, in the goal of making airfield fleet management more efficient and saving on operational costs.