It is just under a year since you took over as commercial director at Gatwick Airport. What have been the highlights for you so far?
The positives have been many and varied, from seeing the airport transformed into a modern, world-class facility to winning new business with airlines, including Vietnam Airlines, AirAsia X and Lufthansa.
And there’s more good news to come on the route development front. Being an independent airport has given Gatwick a new lease on life and the licence to actively compete with other airports for airlines and passengers, which is really satisfying.
How have you developed Gatwick’s commercial and retail strategy?
Clearly much good work in this area had taken place already but in the last 12 months I have been able to redefine the retail proposition to that which is both popular with our travellers as well adding some aspirational brands for those looking for a touch of luxury and indulgence.
Combining the commercial strategy with that of the development team’s and operation’s has been a fundamental part of the rethink so that passengers have time to shop and relax rather than wait in queues. We hate queues and this is one of the pillars of our passenger charter.
How do you market the airport to passengers and businesses, both in the UK and further afield?
Given that around 70% of our passenger base is UK originating and know the Gatwick brand well, the message is not so much selling Gatwick but rather the new Gatwick, the fabulous new facilities and new routes.
We are active users of both traditional and social media but we also firmly believe in getting out and meeting the public and airlines in differing forms, to inform them of what is going on at the airport.
The overseas markets are more of a challenge but we have excellent relationships with our airline partners and overseas tourism and business authorities that helps us open up the Gatwick proposition to a whole new audience.
What are Gatwick’s unique strengths?
Gatwick has many unique strengths, a notable one being our very strong catchment area, arguably the most affluent in the UK. Another being our excellent transport links into the heart of London, 30 minutes to London Victoria and 30 minutes into the City, with services running every 5–15 minutes.
One of our truly unique strengths though is our runway and the people who make it work so well. It is the most efficient single runway in the world, handling on average 52 movements per hour and around 700–800 movements per day. Our air traffic control partners are brilliant and make every slot work for us and keep this airport ticking. This relationship with our operational stakeholders makes us successful and is something we are rightly very proud of.
What new markets, routes and airlines would you like to bring to Gatwick?
We have a strong desire and drive to bring new long-haul services into Gatwick. We have recently won the business with Vietnam Airlines and AirAsia X and are expecting some more good news soon. Gatwick has a low profile in Asia and we would be very keen to see this change and make Gatwick the new Asian gateway for London where onward connections to the US are less important from a route economics perspective.
How are you hoping to attract them?
We are in active dialogue with a number of carriers and one of the most successful elements of attracting new business is for the airline to see what is happening at Gatwick, by having a tour of the airport and see the changes first hand.
By making the facilities better for the passengers and by improving the on time performance of the airlines, Gatwick is really transforming the experience for all stakeholders. That enables them to save money by getting aircraft away on time.
We are improving ground products for all passengers, with the introduction of excellent premium passenger facilities, family assistance lanes at security and the border zones and the new state-of-the-art security for passengers in the South Terminal, which will be introduced in the North Terminal sometime in the future.
By bringing in these improved facilities at the airport, we expect people to come back to Gatwick time and time again.
Do you think we might see the launch of A380 services from Gatwick in the coming 12 months?
Maybe not within the next 12 months but we would expect one to be here within the next 18–24 months. We are in active dialogue with a number of carriers who are either already flying A380s or have them in their fleet.
There are some exciting developments on this front and we will have Code F facilities with full pier service available for the IATA Summer 2013 season.
What is your favourite sport?
Cricket. I represented Essex in my earlier years and was a left-handed batsman and part-time bowler. My batting was probably more Gower than Gayle!!
If you were to give one piece of advice to someone considering a job in aviation, what would it be?
Expect the unexpected!
Gatwick exhibited as an independent airport for the first time at World Routes last year and you put on quite a show. What was your key message this year?
This year was not so much about making a big noise as reminding everyone that we are out there to compete in the market and show just how professional and competitive we are. We are really establishing our new innovative and partnership identity and forming some strong working relationships as a result.
Our message is about world-class, high-quality facilities, business partnering with our key stakeholders and excellent customer service every time.