Gatwick airport has announced that global operator Vinci Airports has purchased a 50.01 per cent stake in the hub.

The acquisition – first made public in December 2018 – makes Vinci the second largest airport operator in the world, with 46 hubs now under its belt in 12 countries. The company also runs Belfast International airport.

Global Infrastructure Partners (GIP) will continue to manage the remaining 49 per cent stake in Gatwick.

Sir David Higgins, Stewart Wingate (pictured, centre) and Nick Dunn will respectively remain chairman, CEO and CFO of the airport and will be joined by Cedric Laurier from Vinci Airports as chief technical officer.

Gatwick says the move will give it access to “broader opportunities”, particularly in career development and in-house training for staff. It also believes the acquisition gives shareholders the chance to weigh in on the future of the airport.

The airport plans to continue developing for the future, with a further £1.1 billion capital investment programme due to help Gatwick deliver passenger improvements by 2023.

Nicolas Notebaert, CEO of Vinci Concessions and president of Vinci Airports (pictured, left), said: “Applying our joint skills will add significant value to both Vinci Airports and London Gatwick airport and benefit all our stakeholders, notably airlines and passengers. Combining our expertise will further improve our operational excellence and sustain our shared vision of putting passengers’ satisfaction at the heart of everything we do.”

Higgins commented: “Today’s announcement marks an exciting new era for Gatwick, its airlines and passengers. We welcome Vinci Airports to Gatwick and are grateful for this strong vote of confidence in Gatwick and the UK.”

Wingate added: “Today is the start of a new chapter for Gatwick, with new owners and further investment enabling the airport to continue on its successful journey. The management team and I will remain focused on delivering exceptional service to our passengers and to developing longer-term plans to grow our airport.”

The acquisition comes as the airport continues to try to garner support for its Draft Master Plan, which includes the use of its existing standby runway to grow capacity, which has drawn criticism from environmental and community groups.

Campaign group Communities Against Gatwick Noise and Emissions (CAGNE) said the Vinci deal “benefits shareholders but not those on the ground”. In a statement, the group added: “It is extremely disappointing that Gatwick’s release today mentions nothing of reducing noise for the communities of Sussex, Surrey and Kent. After the collapse of the Gatwick Noise Management Board last week it is difficult to know how residents are to make their voice heard that ‘enough is enough’ with the current level of aircraft noise that they are expected to endure day and night. Communities will have to be ready to strongly oppose the Gatwick Master Plan, as mentioned in the Gatwick press release, as the standby runway is a second runway by stealth.”

The airport has seen continued growth in recent months, with major airlines Delta and Virgin Atlantic set to launch flights from the airport to Boston and New York JFK next summer.

Gatwick suffered severe disruption in the run-up to Christmas last year after drone sightings forced the hub to ground all flights over safety fears. The airport has said the incident could have been carried out by someone with knowledge of the airport’s operational procedures. Police agreed that the drone activity may have been an ‘inside job’.;

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