World’s largest self-service bag drop zone opens

24 May 2016

Gatwick Airport has today opened the world’s largest self-service bag drop zone following an 18 month construction programme as part of the transformation of the North Terminal.

The £36 million project is a major part of the airport’s growth strategy as the investment in technology will speed passengers through the check-in and bag drop formalities, allowing Gatwick to handle greater numbers of passengers by increasing peak check-in capacity from 3,000 to 4,350 passengers per hour.

Phase One of the project opened last October, with the final phase now complete and the full space now open for passengers.  Gatwick’s biggest airline easyJet is located in the new area and now has the space to move all its South Terminal flights to the North Terminal, creating a much simpler experience for passengers flying with the airline.  The consolidation will happen in January 2017 when British Airways and Virgin Atlantic will also switch their flight operations, with British Airways moving South and Virgin Atlantic moving North.

Gatwick recently reached the 40 million passengers per year milestone, more than 10 years ahead of predictions.  With this type of growth, the investment in the airport’s transformation is more important than ever, allowing continued growth while it waits to build its second runway.

Self-service bag drop was originally trialled in the South Terminal, proving that queuing times can be significantly shortened by allowing passengers to take charge of their own journey through the airport.  The technology enables passengers who have checked in online to take their bags straight to a machine upon arrival at the airport, where they can print their luggage tag, apply it to their bag and load it straight onto Gatwick’s state-of-the-art baggage sorting system. Gatwick now has 60 check-in points in total with 48 of these being self-service bag drop units. This means the check-in process can be completed in less than two minutes.  

Gatwick’s Chief Commercial Officer, Guy Stephenson said:

“As we prepare for the busiest summer the airport has ever had, the full opening of this new departure level will improve the experience our passengers have at Gatwick. 

“This state-of-the-art facility is designed to eliminate queues by allowing passengers to check-in, drop off their bag and be on their way in less than two minutes.

“The continued investment we are making to transform the airport will help us to grow while we wait for a Government decision on a new runway.”

Sophie Dekkers, easyJet’s UK Director, said:  

"As our largest base Gatwick is of huge importance to easyJet both strategically and for the millions of our passengers who travel through the airport every year.

 “We recognise that our customer’s airport experience is a crucial part of their overall journey and so we are delighted to have opened this new area for our customers flying from London Gatwick.

“Our vision is for Gatwick to be both our biggest and best airport and this opening enables us to further deliver on our ambition to make travel easy and affordable for all of our customers. 

Behind the complex operations of a working terminal building, a 24/7 construction site has been managed with major projects being carried out with minimal disruption to the 150,000 passengers who pass through Gatwick’s terminal buildings every day.

Other aspects of the North Terminal development programme will include £30 million invested to create a world-leading new security area with 10 lanes.  Five lanes are already open with the final five being opened this summer.  The investment will halve passenger transit times and give Gatwick the ability to process 5,000 passengers per hour

A further £10 million is being invested to fully refurbish the North Terminal’s arrival area, and is due to open in time for the peak of summer.

£10 million to upgrade the North Terminal border zone – more space, new technologies and 15 recently opened state-of-the-art new e-gates will help lead to shorter queues for passengers.

£250 million is committed to maintaining and replacing facilities including lifts, escalators and the technology infrastructure, while £80 million was invested to reconfigure Pier 5.

After the summer, the project moves to the departure lounge, where Gatwick will be investing to create a world-class new space in the North Terminal.


Fast Facts associated with the construction of the self-service bag drop zone:


  • Gatwick has operated a 24/7 construction site alongside a 24/7 airport operation

  • At times Over 40 contractors and sub-contractors had to be co-ordinated on site

  • Over 7000 sq metres of screeding

  • Over 5000 sq metres of floor tiling in the passenger area, which meant 14,500 individual floor tiles needed to be layed

  • 64 tonnes of steelwork have been carefully constructed

  • Nearly 1000 new light fittings

  • Nearly 100 new internal doors have been fitted

  • In terms of the baggage system which operates behind the self-service bag drop machines:

  • Approximately 850 metres of baggage belt

  • Over 23 tonnes of conveyor has been installed

  • More than 10,000 bolts have been used in the mechanical part of the conveyor installation

  • Nearly 7,000 metres of cabling


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