This week’s announcement by the British Airports Authority that it will sell London’s Gatwick Airport has everyone wondering about the future of the city’s second busiest hub.
The BAA, owned by the Spanish group Ferrovial, sold Gatwick for £1.5 billion ($2.49 billion) to Global Infrastructure Partners, owned by Credit Suisse and General Electric. The deal comes after the UK government decided the BAA had a near monopoly and ordered it to sell Gatwick and Stansted, both serving London, as well as either Glasgow or Edinburgh airports.
BAA also owns Heathrow, London’s busiest airport, and is expected to use some of the money for that airport’s infrastructure, but most of it will be go towards reducing a staggering pile of debt amounting to almost £10 billion ($16.6 billion).
What this means for travelers is not yet clear. The new owners have stated they plan to modernize Gatwick, and have expressed interest in expanding the north terminal and adding a second runway. Gatwick is the world’s busiest single-runway airport, serving more than 32 million passengers last year. An agreement with local residents has stopped any additional runways until 2019, but now that there’s a new company in the cockpit, that may change. A new runway could enable Gatwick to serve up to 80 million passengers a year, more than Heathrow. The situation will become clearer in early December when Global Infrastructure Partners officially takes over.
Vacationers compensated for business travelers at Heathrow last month, helping the airport realize its busiest August in history. Airport operator BAA Ltd. noted that its total traffic, though, had fallen 3.1 percent for the month. Heathrow is Europe’s busiest airport, and 6.4 million passengers passed through, a slight increase of 0.3 percent compared to August 2008.
The other London airports didn’t fare as well, unfortunately. Traffic through London Gatwick dropped 4.6 percent, and London Stansted saw a decline of 7.8 percent, according to BAA. Elsewhere in the United Kingdom, Edinburgh celebrated a 4.8 percent increase in passenger action for the month of August – its fifth month in a row of monthly up-ticks. Glasgow, Aberdeen and England’s Southampton, however, saw declines of 13.4 percent, 9.8 percent and 3.7 percent, respectively.
It was a bad week for Australians, it seems. A naval officer was physically restrained on a flight to London. Not too long after, Matt Carney, a flight attendant from Melbourne, was sentenced to 18 months in jail in England. It was his own fault: he left not one but two(!) notes on a plane to London, “warning” of a bomb. Of course, he was working the flight.
The 23-year-old soon-to-be-former flight attendant is from Melbourne, but he’ll have a new home for a while. As soon as his Emirates Boeing 777 landed at Gatwick Airport, Carney was arrested. No explosives were discovered. One note was found in the lav, the other in the flight attendant’s luggage.
The note was “discovered” when Carney found wires in the lav. Though they weren’t connected to anything, the crew monitored this smallest of spaces. A passenger later found the note, which included: “We have the Taliban to thank for this.”
In pleading guilty to making a hoax threat (he denied endangering the safety of an aircraft), Carney said through his lawyer that he was stressed and tired. If Dubai to London wore him out, let’s see how he handles 18 months in the slammer.
Why is it always the postmen?
Robert Russell had added “former” to his “mail carrier” title after being laid off by Royal Mail. So, he took a trip to Malaga, Spain. This isn’t unusual; plenty of people do something nice for themselves after losing their jobs. It’s great for morale.
It didn’t work.
Russell got wasted on lager and vodka in the Gatwick departure lounge. By the time he was literally flying high, he threatened to kill his fellow passengers and at one point tried to get off the plane early … via an emergency exit at 30,000 feet. The closest thing to a caring moment was when this unruly passenger yelled at a flight attendant, “Oi, blondie. Come and sit here so I can stroke you.”
At one point, he said he would take down the entire plane … an awfully ambitious claim for a guy who couldn’t get the emergency door open. Eventually, crew and passengers were able to subdue the former postal employee, following his physical display of stereotype. .
All this happened on October 15, 2008. The Brighton Crown Court has finally ruled. Russell is banned from every airport in the United Kingdom for five years and will have to pay a fine of £4,643. A 12-month prison sentence was suspended for two years. And, in case there’s hope for the passenger’s humanity, he’s been ordered to complete 200 hours of community service.
As crazy as this incident sounds, in-flight disruptions are more common in Gatwick than you may realize. Sussex Police had to address 58 incidents on planes last year … an increase of almost 20 percent from the 50 in 2007.
So, we told you about the Gatwick Bomb Scare that shut down London Gatwick completely for fifteen minutes on Sunday.
We have more information. Firstly, the note was found by a passenger in the restroom, and it said “Explosive material can be found in the FWD [forward cargo department]. We have the Taliban to thank for this and it will activate.”
Secondly, they never found anything explosive on that plane except the word “explosive” on a note in a pair of a flight attendant’s shorts. In his suitcase. In the same handwriting as the note in the bathroom. That note said “Cargo Contains Explosive.”
Thirdly, 23 year old Australian born flight attendant Matthew Carney has been arrested for “involvement” in the hoax, a.k.a. “writing the note.” A flight attendant! On the flight! Not funny, Carney!
But apparently, it wasn’t a joke. According to the Herald Sun, Carney’s lawyer is claiming that he’s been having a mental breakdown and that he hadn’t slept for four days leading up to the incident. Are they going to plead insanity? This is turning into a TV movie. Fast.
He faces two years in prison, maybe more, and a lot of angry letters from the 164 passengers and 17 other crew members who were detained, fingerprinted, and questioned for ten hours following the incident.
He has not yet entered a plea, and has a hearing next month. He is being held without bail, and is reportedly on suicide watch.