Emirates likely to add Gatwick as A380 destination

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Gatwick Airport is hopeful that it can entice an airline to begin regular services using the Airbus A380 "within the next 12 months".

The airport, previously lacking the dedicated infrastructure to deal with the type, has had to watch while A380 operators have bypassed it in favour of Heathrow.

However, commercial director Guy Stephenson, speaking as Gatwick unveiled a £6.4 million ($9.7 million) upgrade to stand 110 at its North Terminal, which allows pier-served access to the super jumbo, says he is in discussions with several carriers who operate the A380 about launching services from the airport.

Top of the list is Emirates, which ran a one-off scheduled flight to Gatwick on 26 March in order to trial the new stand and air bridges.

Although not committing to a timeframe to launch services, Laurie Berryman, the airline's vice-president UK & Ireland, says it is a matter of "if not when".

It already runs three daily flights from Gatwick to Dubai using 360-seat Boeing 777s which are operating with a load factor of 88%, says Berryman. "I think [the Gatwick operation] could support A380s," he adds, noting the commitment the airport has shown to upgrading its facilities.

"Looking at demand and capability, an airport can either handle A380s effectively or it can't, and Gatwick falls into the former category," he says.

And Stephenson believes the airport has shown enough willing to secure Emirates' backing. "All I can say is that we have done our bit and we are ready and that matters to [Emirates].

"I think we have built an amazingly cost-effective solution here and it is an excellent investment for the future."

Further A380-ready gates will be added in the near future as the airport revamps its "pier six" area.

Although the gates will be initially configured to handle A320-sized aircraft, they can be easily converted to cope with the double-deck type, says construction director Derek Hendry. Up to four A380s could eventually be accommodated, he says.