Understanding who is responsible for what at Gatwick

You may be an experienced traveller, frequently flying from Gatwick, but have you ever stopped to think who is responsible for what at the airport?

Most of the time, we just turn up for our flight, check in, pass through security, grab a quick bite to eat and then board our plane, never stopping to think about who is responsible for the logistics of getting you, and your luggage to the plane.

Often, it’s only when something goes wrong and we need to ask questions, that we realise that Gatwick Airport Ltd doesn’t run everything!

Gatwick Airport, its buildings and land, is owned by a group of international investment funds, the majority stake is owned by Global Infrastructure Partners (GIP). Gatwick Airport is responsible for the day-to-day administration of the airport and, although around 23,500 people work at Gatwick, Gatwick Airport only employs about 2,650 people directly.

Gatwick, like all airports, makes money by charging airlines to use the airport and its facilities and contracts out many of the day-to-day operations to specialist companies. Here’s a quick guide to who is responsible for what at Gatwick and whom you should contact with any queries:

Airport parking
APCOA manages all Gatwick’s on-airport car parks - in 2011, APCOA won a five-year contract to manage all Gatwick Airport’s car parks.

Off-airport car parks are operated by independent companies and any complaints or questions should be directed to the individual car parks.

Passengers with reduced mobility (PRM) services
EU regulations, introduced in July 2008, give all airport passengers the same access rights. Airport operators have the responsibility for disabled and PRM passengers from the moment they arrive at the airport until they board the plane, and from when their plane lands until they exit the airport – see our previous article on Gatwick PRM tips.

To arrange assistance at the airport, passengers should contact their airline when booking their flights, or at least 48 hours prior to travel.

Airlines contract out check-in services to specialist operators. Check-in times are set by airlines and are dependent on the destination – generally the following apply at Gatwick:

  • Domestic flights (UK, Ireland, IOM and Channel Islands) – two hours prior to departure
  • European flights – three hours prior to departure
  • Long-haul – four hours prior to departure.

For accurate details of your earliest and latest check-in times, check your flight confirmation details or your airline’s website – often in the FAQs.

Baggage handling
Ultimately, your airline has responsibility for your luggage, however, airlines contract out baggage handling to specialist companies. In the event of lost or damaged luggage, contact your airline after you have reported it, before leaving the airport and gained a Property Irregularity Report (PIR).

For questions about baggage - weight limits, size and amount of luggage - check your airline’s website as limits vary from airline to airline and may depend on the class you’re flying in.

Restrictions on items that can be carried in hand and checked-in baggage are set by the Department for Transport, however, your airline may also have its own rules.

To find out what is and isn’t permitted, check your airline’s or Gatwick’s website.

Baggage queries should be directed to your airline.

Security checks
Security checks at Gatwick are conducted by specialist companies contracted by the airport.

Gatwick airport shopping, food and duty free
Gatwick Airport rents out space in the airport terminals - retail units, restaurants and food outlets –to individual companies. Any complaints, questions about stock, menus etc. should be directed to the specific retailer.

Duty free limits are set by HM Customs & Excise and can be found on many airport sites and on the HM Customs & Excise website.

Boarding your aircraft
Your airline is responsible for passenger boarding, passenger safety and onboard catering facilities.

Air traffic control
National Air Traffic Services (NATS) is responsible for air traffic control.