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The Conversation TO BRIEFCASES FROM BUCKETS


The old British Rail ad slogan, ‘We’re getting there’, couldn’t be more apt as Gatwick Airport ramps up efforts to woo the corporate traveller. Gillian Upton speaks to the airport's Angus McIntyre


THE 'SORRY for the inconvenience’ signs emblazoned across hoardings and the plague of swarthy men in neon safety jackets around Gatwick’s two terminals say it all – something is changing at the UK's second largest airport. While these are palpable signs of change,


the airport began an almost imperceptible metamorphosis much earlier, in 2009, immediately after swapping its BAA parent for independent ownership. This came in the shape of a group of international investment funds in December that year, the largest being Global Infrastructure Partners (GIP). Owners of London City Airport and other exclusively transport, energy and water/waste concerns, they have been pulling the strings ever since in order to achieve return on the £1.5billion investment these former Credit Suisse execs shelled out. “There’s been a change in attitude since BAA,” explains Gatwick’s Angus McIntyre. “We’d been revving up for the new world 12 months before, then the gloves came off at midnight when the new owners arrived.”


What’s changed is the culture, passion and size


of budgets, says McIntyre. “GIP has a whole different ethos. They are much more driven and focussed, and demanding, and rightly so.”. McIntyre took on the title of Airline Business Development Manager, Commercial, six months before the airport’s sale, wooing only those airlines with point-to-point leisure routes. Since the sale it’s become a very different remit. Today, McIntyre occupies centre stage in Gatwick’s new strategy to lure the corporate market. He’s already signed up Vietnam Airlines, Hong Kong Airlines, Air Asia X and Air China, reflecting the main goal of targeting airlines from this burgeoning economic region. Flights from Asia conveniently arrive at the crack of dawn, when Gatwick has spare slots. McIntyre divides the world with counterpart Simon Edwards. While he has Asia and Australia, Edwards handles the Americas, Europe and Africa. A flat US economy, and an airport well served by European short-haul and mid-haul carriers, means Asia is the obvious target.


It’s a big ask because Gatwick is a point to


point leisure airport, reflected by its plethora of low-cost carriers and charters, myriad shops, restaurants and bucket and spade customers. What business traveller in their right mind would want to negotiate their way through all that? EasyJet is Gatwick’s biggest customer – accounting for a third of the airport’s business – and joins other low-cost airlines, such as Norwegian, to bolster this market segment to 45 per cent. Charters soak up another 30 per cent and scheduled carriers account for the remaining 25 per cent. Of the 33 million passengers passing through Gatwick each year, only 10 to 15 per cent are travelling on business. Before Open Skies, the picture was more balanced between the three market segments, roughly at one third each, and this is the future target. “That’s a happy mix,” says McIntyre. “It’s all about route development, under- standing the airlines’ requirements and growing their business” he says. He sees his role as a relationship manager and is seen as the voice of


18 I THE BUSINESS TRAVEL MAGAZINE


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