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Gatwick Airport celebrates 80th anniversary of first commercial flight

Gatwick Airport celebrates 80th anniversary of first commercial flight Queen Elizabeth II shakes hands with Captain Spencer as members of a guard of honour of airline captains are presented to her on her arrival to open the new Gatwick Airport

Today, May 17th, marks the 80th anniversary of the very first commercial flight from Gatwick, to Paris.

Since then the airport has grown to become the world’s most efficient single runway airport, with a flight taking off or landing nearly every minute, and this week has served 41 million passengers for the first time ever.

Gatwick’s first flight was to Paris with the single fare costing four pounds five shillings (the equivalent today is approximately £160), including the first class train fare from London Victoria. 

Paris was one of just five scheduled routes served from the airport in its first year of operation, the others being Malmö, Amsterdam, Hamburg and Copenhagen.

The number of routes at Gatwick has grown considerably since then with the airport flying to more than 200 destinations in 90 countries today.

Over the course of the last 80 years, Gatwick has played host to many prominent figures including Queen Elizabeth II, Princess Diana and John F Kennedy plus key aviation milestones including the first ever Virgin Atlantic flight taking off from the airport on June 22nd 1984.

Take a look below for a picture gallery of Gatwick through the ages:

John Kennedy, president of the United States, with British prime minister Harold Macmillan after the president’s arrival at Gatwick Airport

Pope John Paul II kisses the ground as he arrives at Gatwick Airport for a six day visit to Great Britain on May 28th, 1982 - the first papal visit to the UK

Lily Cole takes to the runway as she launches Gatwick Runway Models, a modelling competition from Gatwick Airport and Storm Model Management