History of London Gatwick Airport

Gatwick Airport as we know it today was opened by Queen Elizabeth II, in 1958. From an early life as a flying club, Gatwick became an official aerodrome in the 1930s, with flights to Belfast and Paris. The iconic art deco Beehive terminal was built in 1936 – and still exists as part of City Place. 

After spending World War II as an RAF base, in 1950 Gatwick became London’s second airport. A £7.8 million renovation led to its new incarnation in 1958 and it became the first airport in the world with a direct railway link. Gatwick grew quickly thanks to the closure of other airports, such as London Croydon.

In 1963, Gatwick relieved Heathrow of all its charter flights and the runway was extended several times throughout the 1960s and 1970s, eventually enabling non-stop flights to the American west coast.

The 1980s saw the construction of the North Terminal and a new air traffic control tower – the UK’s tallest. The 1980s also brought the start of commercial Concorde flights and, in 1987, Gatwick overtook New York’s JFK as the world’s second busiest airport.

In 2005, Gatwick opened the world’s largest air passenger bridge, to the new Pier 6 satellite building. The first A380 services arrived in 2012, with Emirates, followed by the first 787 Dreamliner flights, with Thomson Airways, in 2013. By 2014, Gatwick had an aircraft taking off or landing every 63 seconds – all on one runway.

In the 60 years to 2019, Gatwick’s annual passenger numbers rose from 186,000 to over 46 million. Then 2020 arrived, travel restrictions came into force, and Gatwick’s operations were reduced back down to one terminal.

Travel between the terminals at London Gatwick Airport

Airport travelator

There are two terminals at London Gatwick – the North Terminal and South Terminal. Travelling between the two takes just two minutes by monorail shuttle. If you are in the North Terminal, just follow the signs to the South Terminal. If you are in the South Terminal, just follow the signs to the North Terminal. The shuttle runs every few minutes.

You can check which terminal you are flying from here Check your terminal

Note that if you are travelling to and from Gatwick by train, the train station is located in the South Terminal. There are direct rail connections to London, the South East and beyond. Please allow sufficient time to take the shuttle to the North Terminal, if your flight departs from North.

With flights departing every day, London Gatwick whisks millions of travellers away on their travels each year, whether it’s an escape to a sunny beach, a snowy ski holiday, a business trip, or visiting family and friends. The most popular destination from Gatwick in 2019 – before Covid disrupted the world – was Barcelona, which welcomed 1.6 million Gatwick arrivals. Close behind was Dublin, with 1.4 million, and in third spot was Malaga, with 1.15 million.

Here’s the full list of the top 10 most popular destinations from Gatwick in 2019.

Barcelona, Spain – 1.6 million

Dublin, Republic of Ireland – 1.4 million

Malaga, Spain – 1.15 million

Amsterdam, Netherlands – 1.1 million

Madrid, Spain – 1 million

Dubai, UAE – 1 million

Orlando, USA – 1 million

Alicante, Spain – 900,00

Geneva, Switzerland – 800,000

Mallorca, Spain – 750,000


In 2020, with numbers severely reduced thanks to travel restrictions (from over 46 million in 2019 to just over 10 million in 2020), the top 10 destinations from Gatwick were slightly – but not vastly – different.

Dublin, Ireland

Geneva, Switzerland

Barcelona, Spain

Amsterdam, Netherlands

Belfast, Northern Ireland

Madrid, Spain

Dubai, UAE

Edinburgh, Scotland


Malaga, Spain


Airlines that fly from London Gatwick Airport

easy jet

Officially, there are 49 airlines operating at London Gatwick Airport, although not all are necessarily active.

Aegean Airlines (A3)

Aer Lingus (EI)

Aerolineas Argentinas (AR)

Aeromexico (AM)

Air Arabia Maroc (3O)

Air Baltic (BT)

Air Europa (UX)

Air Malta (KM)

Air Transat (TS)

American Airlines (AA)

Aurigny Air Services (GR)

Azores Airlines (S4)

Belavia (B2)

BH Air (8H)

British Airways (BA)

China Airlines (CI)

Condor (DE)

Corendon Air (XC)

Croatia Airlines (OU)

Eastern Airways (T3)

Easyjet (U2)

Emirates (EK)

Etihad Airways (EY)

Finnair (AY)

Iberia (IB)

Iberojet (E9)

Icelandair (FI)

Iraqi Airways (IA)

JetBlue Airways (B6)

Norwegian Air (DY)

Norwegian Air International (D8)

Qantas (QF)

Qatar Airways (QR)

Royal Air Maroc (AT)

Ryanair (FR)

Scoot (TR)

Singapore Airlines (SQ)

SunExpress (XQ)

Swiss (LX)

Tap Air Portugal (TP)

Tui Airways (BY)

Tunisair (TU)

Turkish Airlines (TK)

Ukraine International Airlines (PS)

Virgin Atlantic (VS)

Vueling (VY)

WestJet (WS)

Wizz Air (W6)

Wizz Air UK (W9)

Duty Free Shopping at London Gatwick Airport

duty free

You will find World Duty Free stores in both the North Terminal and the South Terminal at Gatwick Airport.

They offer a reserve and collect service, which means you can shop in advance at home, reserve your items, and collect them at the airport.

Note that duty free shopping is available only for departing and arriving passengers.

World Duty Free North Terminal

For departing passengers – after security

Open: 04.30 – 19.00

Tel: 01293 504260

World Duty Free North Terminal

For arriving passengers – before entering the Arrivals Hall

Open: please check, currently closed

Tel: 01293 505851

World Duty Free South Terminal

For departing passengers – after security

Open: please check, currently closed

Tel: 01293 502029

World Duty Free South Terminal

For arriving passengers – before entering the Arrivals Hall

Open: please check, currently closed

Tel: 01293 502421

Eating and drinking at London Gatwick Airport

Happy Airport Lounge traveller

Looking for some refreshment before your flight? Gatwick has got you covered, from coffee stalls and fast-food to dine-in restaurants. Grab a sandwich, wrap or burrito; tuck into nutritious salads, classic American burgers or a stone-based pizza. Whether you are on the hunt for traditional British pub food, local artisan produce or oodles of noodles, you’ll find something sure to hit the spot, either landside before security or airside in the Departures Lounge.

Here is a full list of eateries and watering holes at London Gatwick Airport.

North Terminal

Coffee-Bike – Airside

3-wheeler mobile coffee stall

Open: please check, currently closed

Costa Coffee – Landside

Coffee and tea served a multitude of ways

Open: 05.00 – 20.00

Jamie’s Coffee Lounge – Landside

A taste of Italy before going through security

Open: 03.00 – 19.00

Juniper & Co – Airside

Locally sourced salmon, artisan cheese and craft gins

Open: 05.00 – 18.00

Pret a Manger – Airside

For your classic Pret favourites

Open: 03.00 – 20.00

Pret a Manger – Airside Pier 6

More Pret, over the air bridge in Pier 6

Open: 06.00 – 16.00

Pure – Airside

Refreshing range of vegan and veggie options

Open: 04.00 – 20.00

Shake Shack – Airside

Burgers from Manhattan

Open: 11.00 – 19.00

Sonoma – Airside

Californian treats including wine from Sonoma

Open: 04.30 – 18.00

Starbucks – Airside

Customised coffee, pastries, wraps and snacks

Open: 04.00 – last flight

The Red Lion – Airside

Pub favourites, traditional ales; open until the last flight

Open: 04.00 – last flight

The Nicholas Culpeper – Landside

Named after a 17th-century, local botanist

Open: 05.30 – 18.00

Tortilla – Airside

Tacos and tequila up on the mezzanine

Open: 04.00 – 18.00

Wagamama – Airside

Nourishing flavours from Japan

Open: 04.30 – 18.00

Warrens Bakery – Airside

Real Cornish pasties and patisserie

Open: please check, currently closed

South Terminal 

With no flights currently operating from Gatwick South, all but one of the refreshment options are closed.

Caffé Nero – Landside

Right opposite departures in the South Terminal

Open: 08.00 – 20.00

Top hotels at London Gatwick Airport

Staying at the airport the night before you flight makes for a relaxing start to your travels. It can certainly take some of the stress out of having to get to the airport on time, especially for an early flight. Gatwick has some great airport hotel options, all within walking distance of one of the two terminals. Most can be paired with parking, for the perfect park and stay package.

Sofitel London Gatwick

A little taste of French luxury, right next to London Gatwick’s North Terminal. Sophisticated, contemporary rooms, two restaurants, gym and secure, on-site parking. A covered walkway takes you directly into the North Terminal.

Hilton London Gatwick

Offering a range of rooms to suit families, couples or solo travellers, the Hilton London Gatwick has a bar and restaurant, room service, fitness centre and business centre. A covered walkway takes you to the South Terminal.

Hampton by Hilton London Gatwick

A great-value choice beside the North Terminal. Enjoy a free hot breakfast, free WiFi and fitness centre. There is a restaurant and a bar, and direct access into the North Terminal by covered walkway.

Courtyard by Marriott London Gatwick

Spacious rooms, a state-of-the-art fitness centre and an award-winning restaurant, just a short walk or shuttle ride to Gatwick’s South Terminal. Watch the planes take off and land behind your soundproofed window.

Bloc Hotel Gatwick

The Bloc Hotel Gatwick is on the third floor of the South Terminal, just a few steps from the departure lounge. The Bloc experience includes contactless Smart Room Control, speedy WiFi and monsoon showers.

Yotelair London Gatwick

Located in the Arrivals Hall of Gatwick’s South Terminal, Yotelair offers cabin-style accommodation with ensuite monsoon shower and fast WiFi. Complimentary tea and coffee are available from mission control.

Premier Inn London Gatwick

A five-minute walk to the North Terminal, or a free shuttle ride from the South Terminal, the Premier Inn offers a comfortable sleep on a Hypnos bed, free WiFi and power shower. The Thyme Bar and Grill serves breakfast and dinner.

Drop-Off and Pick-Up Charges at London Gatwick Airport

Drop-off charges were introduced at Gatwick Airport in March 2021. To enter the drop-off zone outside the terminal entrance you will need to pay a minimum fee of £5, which gives you a stay of up to 10 minutes. Each additional minute thereafter is £1, up to a maximum charge of £25 for a maximum stay of 30 minutes.

Payment is quick and easy via the NCP website. Just enter your number plate and the fee to pay will be calculated according to how long your vehicle stayed in the drop-off zone. Payment must be made by midnight the following day.

You can also sign up for an AutoPay account, if you are a frequent flyer.

The same charges and the same process apply for picking up passengers. However, you may want to consider using the short stay car parks for pick-ups, as the length of stay can be uncertain.

The only free option for drop-off and pick-up, either at the South Terminal or North Terminal, is the Long Stay car park, which is free for stays of up to two hours, as is the shuttle bus to and from the terminal.

Blue Badge Holders

There are exemptions for Blue Badge holders, who need to register their number plate, name, flight details and a photo/scan of the Blue Badge in advance here. If you are travelling by taxi, you can also register for an exemption, if you request the number plate from the taxi company in advance. Registration can be made anytime from three months to one day prior to travel, and confirmation of a Blue Badge exemption will be sent by email. Applications on or after the date of travel may not be accepted.

Local Commuter Scheme

Local commuters that travel by train from Gatwick Station can pay an annual membership fee, which allows two free visits per day to the South Terminal drop-off zone. Two vehicles per household may be registered. The annual fee is £50.00, and residents of the following postcodes can apply:

RH6 0

RH6 9

RH11 0

Applications require proof of residency as well as name, address and vehicle registration details. You can apply here

Parking Charge Notices

If you fail to pay a drop-off fee or fail to obtain a Blue Badge exemption in advance, a Parking Charge Notice will be issued for £100, which is reduced to £60 if paid within 14 days. Note that Automatic Number Plate Recognition cameras are in place throughout the drop-off zones in both the North Terminal and the South Terminal.

The drop-off zones are signposted from the airport approach roads.

Payment queries

If you need to query your drop-off charge or have any other payment queries you can email customerservice@ncp.co.uk or call 0345 050 7080.

Petrol stations near London Gatwick Airport

The closest petrol station to London Gatwick Airport is the Shell on Longbridge Way, just outside Gatwick North Terminal (RH6 0NX). Alternatively, there is an Esso station on the Brighton Road, Horley (RH6 7HH), just 700m from the North Terminal. Or a Tesco station a little further away on Reigate Road, Hookwood, Horley (RH6 0AT). For the South Terminal, your nearest fuel is a BP station on the Ring Road North, A23 (RH6 0NN), close to the Hilton London Gatwick Airport.

If you need an electric charging station then you’ll find a Source London Charging Station at the North Terminal on Departures Road (RH6 0PJ), or a Chargemaster Charging Station at the Holiday Inn, Povey Cross Road (RH6 0BA). There are also charging points in the short stay car parks at both terminals.

Trolly charges at London Gatwick Airport

Luggage trolleys are available in both the North Terminal and South Terminal. You will need a £1 or €1 coin, which is refunded when the trolley is returned. There are change machines in both terminals.

Smoking Areas at London Gatwick Airport

Look for the designated smoking zones outside the terminal buildings. No smoking is permitted once you have passed through security. Likewise, there are no smoking areas for passengers in transit at Gatwick. The same restrictions apply to E-cigarettes.

In the South Terminal, there is an outdoor terrace at the My Lounge airport lounge, where smoking is permitted.