I think it’s fair to say that the two words ‘Gatwick Airport‘ have often been enough on their own to strike doom into the heart of the knowledgable traveller: busy with charter flights, on the wrong side of the river for north Londoners, and devoid of tolerable places to eat.
interesting things are afoot. I’ve found a cheap way to get there from north London that’s just as quick as the Gatwick Express, (see bottom of the post), some really excellent restaurants that would be good in London, let alone the South Terminal, have opened recently (hello heavenly Grain Store & Comptoir Libanais), the pay-for lounge is excellent (if pricey – I reviewed it here, although if you book in advance you can save £7 on the pay-at-the-door price), and, if you are willing to pay a little, you can fast track your way through the hordes in security on the way out, and through passport control on the way back.
ON THE WAY OUT: THE EXTRA PREMIUM SECURITY LANE
Oh yes – a plutocrat’s life for me: this was a game-changer on the way out to Spain back in March. For a mere £5 per head you can whisk your way through the dedicated Extra Premium Security lane. In the North terminal it opens from 6am to 9.30pm, and in the South terminal from 6am to 9pm, so you can use it for almost any flight departure time.
Do note that at the present time you can ONLY book this through the Gatwick Parking site, NOT the Gatwick Airport site, where you can book Premium Security either on its own or when you pre-book parking. (The Gatwick airport site isn’t very user-friendly at present.)
There is more information here http://www.gatwickparking.com/extras/premium-security, and you can book here.
ON THE WAY HOME: THE AIRPORT PASSENGER SERVICES PREMIUM PASSPORT CONTROL
This also feels properly shiny: get off the plane, hollow-eyed and exhausted and, instead of sprinting to get to the front of the Passport Control queue, all pointy elbows and breathless impatience, simply stroll towards the Premium Gatwick Passport Control lane, where you’ll barely have to queue, as the service is limited to just 50 passengers per hour.
It costs £12.50 per person, which strikes me very good value if you are very short of time – or patience. All you have to do is present your confirmation email to the dedicated host, and a UK Border Force Officer (UKBF Officer) will check your passport as usual before you progress to baggage reclaim or straight through to arrivals if you don’t have any bags to collect.
The service is available to both EU and non-EU passengers, and is open daily from 06.00 to 24.00, and is available to passengers of all airlines and classes of travel.
Do note that you need to book at least 24 hours before your flight is scheduled to arrive at Gatwick, and that if you are a non EU citizen, make sure you have the necessary visas and that your landing card is completed before entry.
I’ve recently discovered that you can circumvent the extremely expensive Gatwick Express and only slightly less expensive Southern Railways at Victoria by taking a direct Thameslink train from St Pancras International (NOT King’s Cross).
Many online train apps will send you via Victoria EVEN if you specifically request a St Pancras/Kings X route but, take it from me, if you live anywhere in the vicinity of north or north west London, the hour-long Thameslink service at a tenner, is a much better option than paying for the tube to get to Victoria and then paying £25.40 (Gatwick Express) or £19.60 (Southern Railways) EACH WAY. (They may be quicker services per se, but not when you add in the tube journey to get to Victoria.) The Thameslink service also stops at Farringdon, City Thameslink & Blackfriars. Handy.
The only drawback is that the Thameslink trains don’t run so frequently: there doesn’t seem to be much rhyme or reason as to the timetable, so you can’t just pitch up as you can for the Gatwick Express – you need to check in advance. (I’m a big fan of the Trainline and National Rail apps.)
Jaeger Side Stripe Joggers in Midnight £99
Adidas Orginals Velcro Stan Smith in Snake Suede Trainers £69.99
Victorinox Spectra 2.0 Compact Spinner £199
Coach Nolita Leather Satchel, Saddle £275
Sasha and Rachel travelled through Premium Security and Premium Passport Control as guests of Gatwick Airport in March 2016.