Gatwick celebrates 80th anniversary of first flight and serves 41 million passengers annually for the first time ever

17 May 2016

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 4 pounds 5 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 22 June 1984.

A picture gallery of Gatwick through the ages and timeline of key Gatwick events has today been published.

Gatwick picture gallery through the ages

 6th June 1936:                        
Crowds gather at Gatwick Airport after it was opened by the Air Minister Lord Swinton

9th June 1958:                       
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

29th June 1963:                       
Mr John F. Kennedy, President of the United States, with Mr Harold Macmillan after the President's arrival at Gatwick Airport

28th July 1967:                        
Bob Monkhouse joins 'The Beat Girls' at Gatwick Airport

28th May 1982:                        
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

22nd June 1984:                      
Richard Branson poses on steps leading up to a Virgin Atlantic Boeing 747-200 at Gatwick Airport before the inaugural flight to Newark airport. Clockwise from bottom left: Una Stubbs, Holly Johnson, Bonnie Langford, Catherine Rabett, Christopher Biggins, Clement Freud, David Frost, Richard Branson, Suzanne Danielle, Randolph Fields, Gary Numan.

14th April 1985:                        
Wham! singer George Michael at Gatwick Airport after flying back from a two week tour of China.

9th March 1988:                      
Midge Ure, of Ultravox, spraying a message on a water tanker at Gatwick Airport.

18 March 1988:                       
The North Terminal being opened by Queen Elizabeth II

22nd September 1988:            
Diana, Princess of Wales listens to the dialogue of pilots as they come into land at Gatwick Airport during her visit to the Control Tower at Gatwick Airport

1st June 2010:                         
Lily Cole takes to the runway as she launches Gatwick Runway Models, a modelling competition from Gatwick Airport and Storm Model Management

14th May 2013                         
John Terry and Frank Lampard travelling through Gatwick


Timeline of key Gatwick events

17th May 1936:                        
First flight from Gatwick Airport departs, to Paris

6th June 1936:                         
Gatwick Airport is officially opened by the Secretary of State for Air, Lord Swinton

1939 – 1945:                           
Gatwick is closed to civil aviation during the World War II and requisitioned in support of the war effort

9th June 1958:                         
Gatwick airport is reopened by Queen Elizabeth II

22nd June 1984:                      
Virgin Atlantic’s first commercial flight departs from Gatwick to New York

Queen Elizabeth II opens the North Terminal

easyJet began operating from Gatwick

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