Gatwick Airport started out as a modest little airfield in 1931, that was privately owned by Home Counties Aviation Services, later being taken over by Airports Limited. Once in hands of Airports Limited, the aprons, taxiways and a terminal were constructed. Gatwick opened its doors to passengers in 1936, and passengers were able to reach the airport by train, walkways and subways. Its operations were abandoned due to not having a paved runway in 1938, and Gatwick eventually served as a base to the Royal Air Force during the second world war. In 1946, it was commissioned for civil use again, but still had a grass runway. Changes only came in 1953 after it was declared the second London airport, and was closed for renovations until 1956. Traffic slowly started increasing over the following years and extensions were built to the terminal. In 1978 this London airport became a gateway to transatlantic travel and by 1980, passenger traffic had grown to 10 million. By the year 2000 Gatwick had increased its passenger records of 32 million, and is the second largest airport in Britain.
Gatwick operates two runways, both constructed of asphalt, with one measuring 3,316 meters (10,879), and the other measureing 2,565 meters (8,415 feet). Operations and traffic at Gatwick is directed from two terminals, namely the South Terminal and the North Terminal. The North Terminal deals with airliners such as Aer Lingus, British Airways, Delta Air Lines, Air France and other commercial airlines. As charter flights are not permitted at Heathrow, the bulk of the charter flights are made to and from Gatwick Airport, and the North Terminal. Restrictions, in regard to transatlantic flights, are also enforced by Heathrow and therefore, Gatwick receives most of the traffic between the United States and Britain. The South Terminal deals with most of the traffic that comes in and out of Gatwick, including international, charter and domestic flights.
Both the North and South Terminals have convenient parking that is divided into Long Term, Short Term, Fast Track and Business Parking. Parking facilities for disabled and wheel chair passengers are reserved exclusively for their use. Gatwick Airport also accommodates a wide variety of passenger facilities such as foreign exchange services, ATM’s, smoking areas, postal services, restaurants, book stores, bars, shoe and clothing stores, gift shops, jewelry stores, fast food stores, pharmacies, luxury goods stores, designer boutiques and health stores.