Germany’s DFS takes over Gatwick tower from NATS

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German air navigation service provider DFS to take over tower operations at London Gatwick airport next year.

Gatwick’s tower is currently being run by UK air navigation service provider NATS. But DFS says it has won a contract to take over the operation, including staff members, in October 2015. The deal is to be signed at the end of this month.

DFS’s operations at London’s second airport will be conducted by subsidiary The Tower Company (TTC). This wholly owned unit, set up in 2005, provides tower services at 10 regional airports in Germany, including Hahn, Karlsruhe/Baden-Baden and Weeze, but has a stated aim of operating at airports across Europe.

Gatwick will be the first airport outside Germany where TTC becomes active. A UK-based subsidiary is to be established.

“The [existing] staff at Gatwick will transfer to the DFS subsidiary, in close dialogue with the employees and their representatives and in keeping with our employee relations traditions,” says the DFS.

NATS has responded with bitterness to the loss of its contract. “We are extremely disappointed that the highly competitive bid we submitted to Gatwick has been unsuccessful,” says operations director Mike Stoller.

He argues that NATS added “considerable value” to the airport by increasing its runway capacity to 55 aircraft movements an hour which, he says, “significantly outperforms every other single-runway airport in the world”.

DFS has in the past showed an interest in acquiring a stake in NATS.