CORRECTION: We incorrectly stated that Vietnam Airlines will be launching its routes from Gatwick to Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City from Gatwick's South Terminal. The carrier will in fact be departing from the North Terminal.
British Airways (BA) has officially opened its new home at Gatwick North Terminal, offering what the airline claims will be a faster check-in experience.
In an attempt to speed up the check-in process, staff at the bag drop desks are not allowed to sit down, manning two conveyor belts per person so that they can alternate between each belt easily and keep both queues moving.
Cabin crew and ground staff have also been given iPads, to offer a more personalised customer service. The newly purchased tablets will allow staff to quickly access important customer information such as travel preferences, onward connections and loyalty status in order to provide a bespoke customer service.
BA has also installed new self check-in kiosks for passengers to use, where boarding cards and baggage tags are printed off. At the bag drop area, staff will only check the weight of bags and scan the bar code on the tags.
Premium passengers have been given a dedicated check-in area, which will undergo a redesign in the coming months, where frosted glass walls will be installed to give the area an added sense of seclusion. The old Fast Track security lane has also been rebranded as Premium Gatwick.
The new area is part of a £73 million extension to the North Terminal, due to be unveiled fully next month, and is now home to all of BA’s flights out of Gatwick.
Silla Maizey, BA’s managing director at Gatwick, said of the new facility: “We have a fantastic new home, which is spacious, bright and airy and which has technology that gives passengers the quickest and easiest journey possible through the airport.”
There are no ropes or cordoned off areas as the carrier wants to maintain a light and open feel to the space.
Thomson Airways has moved in to BA’s old check-in area at zones E and F and Emirates will open a new check-in area adjacent in Zone B in November. Vietnam Airlines is also set to move into the North Terminal in order to launch its new services from Gatwick to Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, commencing in December, 2011.
Over four and a half million passengers travel out of Gatwick with British Airways every year to 45 domestic, European and long haul destinations. BA is the second largest carrier out of the airport after easyjet.
BA’s first new route to operate from the new terminal will be to Mauritius, which moves to Gatwick from Heathrow on November 1.
The new facility will allow BA to match its growth targets at Gatwick over the next two years, but with the government’s opposition to runway expansion the airline is worried about 2014 onwards.
Alan Peever, head of ground operations at Gatwick for BA, said: “We need to see some common sense from the government, otherwise the UK will get left behind.”
Report by Scott Carey