New Gatwick owner to eliminate queues

New Gatwick owner to eliminate queues

The new owner of Gatwick Airport has earmarked the elimination of long check-in and security queues as a top priority upon taking control of Britain’s second largest airport this week.

The investment fund Global Infrastructure Partners (GIP) is buying Gatwick from BAA for £1.5 billion, with the deal expected to be closed by the end of this week, subject to European Commission approval.

GIP says it will deploy a team of “fixers” in a bid to overhaul the operations.

Plans include a new lounge to cope with the airport’s growing business traffic, expansion of security areas, and remodelling the check-in hall.

One of the main problems at present is that each airline has fixed check-in desks, which are unused when that airline has no flights leaving. GIP says that if airlines shared facilities, they could cope better at peak periods, easing the traffic flow through the check-in hall.

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GIP’s founding investors GE and Credit Suisse own 10 percent of the $5.6 billion (£3.3 billion) fund. In a departure from the usual practice of infrastructure funds which have little hand-on management of their assets once they have been bought, GIP plans to improve operations and thus increase the investment return. Next week will send in a team of five senior managers to improve working practices.

Michael McGhee, GIP’s partner in London, told The Times: “These things take time and it will be at least 18 months before passengers will notice a real difference. However, there are some simple changes we hope to make during 2010 which should start to improve matters.”

He added: “Many infrastructure assets are, or were, government-owned and they tend to keep the structures they inherited, so there are big efficiency gains possible if you can introduce best industrial practice. We have got these former GE black-belt people that are able to do that.”