Gatwick parking con ended by Council

West Sussex County Council has put the brakes on a Gatwick parking swindle, designed to con travellers out of their hard-earned cash.

Gatwick Secure Parking, a private enterprise owned by London restaurateur, Resat Gundogdu, sold fake parking spaces to unsuspecting tourists, wooing them with hyperbole and buzzwords – secure facilities, six-foot high fences and lockable gates.

A litany of complaints forced the local Trading Standards Office to intervene, but the company carried on trading. Further investigation revealed that the firm was running a very strange business indeed.

Council officers purchased their own parking space from Mr. Gundogdu, and left for the evening, assured that their car would be treated with the utmost care, wrapped in cotton wool and guarded by angry dragons.

However, it soon became clear that Gatwick Secure Parking was not providing the service that its website had promised. Rather than transporting customer vehicles to a secure location, valuable cars and motorbikes were being left in the general parking area, unattended.

Over three winter days, council officers returned to find their mileage identical to the previous evening. In November, Mr. Gundogdu pleaded guilty to fraud. He was handed a £836 fine, and sentenced to 140 hours community service, picking up leaves and planting flowers. West Sussex Council was suitably impressed with the verdict.

“This is another example of our trading standards officers’ determination to protect the interests of consumers who live, work or visit our county”, council boss, Henry Smith, explained. The Gatwick Secure Parking website has since been shut down.

Mr. Gundogdu was also fined £24,000 for failing to uphold hygiene standards at a Crawley kebab and steak house.

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Gatwick Airport Parking Shop

Easyjet loses High Court Battle to Gatwick over rising fees

EasyJet has failed in its court battle over the increasing of fees for airlines at Gatwick Airport. The budget airline had taken the CAA (Civil Aviation Authority) to the High Court over claims that the airport regulator’s recent agreement to raise the fees for using Gatwick was unlawful.

But the High Court has now thrown out the case, to the obvious pleasure of the CAA but to the dismay of EasyJet. Harry Bush from CAA said that he is “pleased with the outcome of the judicial review”, although EasyJet has been given the right to appeal.

EasyJet is frustrated that the High Court did not order a review of the fee hikes. The problem was all caused over the decision that the maximum fee per passenger using the airport was to be increased to £6.79. EasyJet has said that this will cost it an extra £46 million over the next five years, and it has also said that the charges are likely to be paid by passengers in the form of higher fares.

The CAA has claimed that the rises were necessary in order to make important improvements to Gatwick, but EasyJet has already announced that it will appeal the ruling. In a difficult time for the aviation industry, it said that “passengers must be protected with strong airport regulation.” And although it is great that the company is so concerned for the wellbeing of its customers, it is certain to be worried more about the hit that its profits will take if it becomes less competitive in an already competitive market.

Airlines concerned over Gatwick improvements

There has been concern ahead of BAA’s £900 million investment project at Gatwick Airport, which has led the AOC (Airline Operators Committee) to issue a complaint to the company, claiming that there is a chance the huge bill will have to be passed onto their customers in the form of higher fares.

Ryanair, EasyJet and British Airways, all members of the AOC, have sent a letter to BAA expressing their concern that now is not the right time to go ahead with the large-scale changes, due to the fact that passenger numbers are continuing to fall. Gatwick has seen passenger numbers drop considerably this year, falling by 12% since the beginning of 2009.

The airlines are reluctant to pass on the bill to their customers during this difficult economic climate, and they have suggested that the programme be scaled back and put off until after the airport has been sold.

The airlines spoke of an “unproven” case for the millions that would need to be pumped into the airport for new facilities over the next five years. They have clearly expressed that they want to put off the changes until the new owner of the airport is decided, who they feel may have cheaper plans.

The proposed improvements to Gatwick include a new aircraft pier in the North Terminal, costing £200 million, and a number of other expensive upgrades. However, according to the AOC the costs cannot be justified.

BAA counteracted the criticisms by saying that the airlines were all involved in the negotiation process, and had been aware of the costs that it would incur for a long time already.

Air rage on the increase at Gatwick

Gatwick airport has reported an increase in the number of air rage incidents which necessitated police action.

Police had to board planes 58 times last year, up from 50 the year before, and when problems on the ground are taken into account it works out at around ten incidents per week in the first three months of the year.

Emirates plane over Gatwick Airport

Offences committed ranged from threatening and abusive behaviour to assault, and many were alcohol related.

As a result of air rage at Gatwick, 52 people were arrested and a further 63 denied boarding. Nationwide the number of air rage incidents has increased fourfold in the last four years, although the number of serious incidents has actually decreased.

Police at Gatwick have enlisted the help of businesses at the airport, particularly those selling alcohol, and many promotions have been withdrawn in an attempt to ensure that passengers are not intoxicated before they even get on the plane.

Stress is cited as a major contributory factor: intrusive security procedures, flight delays, lack of legroom, and screaming children can make the most even tempered passenger fly off the handle.

BAA, the operator at Gatwick airport, was keen to play down the statistics, saying that 35 million passengers pass through the airport each year, and that only a very small number of passengers cause problems

It is also thought that as airlines become increasingly intolerant of disruptive passengers more cases are being reported to the police.

This March a passenger was jailed for eight months after a drunken air rage incident on a plane flying from Egypt to Cardiff.

Easyjet takes legal action over Gatwick charges

This week has seen Easyjet start a legal battle in the High Court against the Civil Aviation Authority, the regulator of UK airports, over charges levied on the low-cost carrier to use Gatwick airport. Earlier this month the chief executive of Easyjet, Andy Harrison, decried the “barmy” system of airport charges in Britain.

Easyjet Legal Action

The CAA has allowed BAA (the airport operator) to increase charges at Gatwick by 50% over the five years from April 2008 to April 2013, a move which will cost Easyjet £46 million. The airline has 37 aircraft at Gatwick and transports 9 million passengers a year.

Mr Harrison claims that the regulator held private talks with the operator after the deadline had passed for consultation. A spokesman for the CAA vowed to defend the decision vigorously, arguing that there had been proper consultation, something which Mr Harrison dismissed as “baloney”.

The charges being levied are to be invested in a £875 million plan for improvements to Gatwick. Mr Harrison is angry that airlines have to pay in advance and that there is no sign of any of the work being carried out at Gatwick. The situation has been further exacerbated by the likelihood of a new owner taking over at Gatwick and there is of course no guarantee that the new owner will carry out the work planned. Mr Harrison has called for a root and branch overhaul of the way airports are regulated.

The court hearing is expected to last all week and a decision should be made within two months.

A court has ordered bailiffs to enforce a debt judgement against Easyjet

A Bristol man has won a court ruling to force a payment from budget airline EasyJet, after EasyJet refused to refund substantial charges following a missed departure from Sicily to Gatwick last year.

Gatwick Airport EasyJet

Craig Stevens, aged 40, missed the flight from Palermo in Sicily to Gatwick Airport, after a freak flood meant that he and his family were unable to travel to get their flight.

On realising they would miss their flight home, Mr Stevens immediately telephoned EasyJet from the train on the way to the airport and was assured that he would only have to pay £35 to reschedule the flight.

However, Mr Stevens was not told that he would have to check in within two hours of his original flight in order to take advantage of the minimal charge.

Instead, on arriving at the airport with wife Utako and two year old daughter Lana, Mr Stevens ended up having to pay an additional £300 to get his family home.

On returning to the UK, Mr Stevens lodged a legal claim for a refund of £300 at Bristol County Court, but after EasyJet failed to pay the charges within 28 days of the claim, he sought permission to force a debt judgment on the airline.

After winning his request to have bailiffs reclaim the £300 plus the £55 bailiff costs and £40 court charges, Mr Stevens said, “It’s a massive relief to have the whole saga come to an end. The fees were in danger of turning my budget holiday into a really expensive one.”

Following the court ruling EasyJet was given a week to pay the charges before the bailiffs would remove £400 of its property from the airline’s Head Office in Luton.

Improvements for Gatwick Airport Express

Last year the Gatwick Airport Express, the dedicated rail service serving the airport, was under threat of closure in order to provide more capacity for commuter services between London and Brighton, one of the busiest services in the country.

Thanks to a campaign waged by airlines, staff and members of the public, the threat was lifted and at 3.30am on Sun 22nd June, Southern ran its first train out of London Victoria to Gatwick.

According to Southern’s MD, Chris Burchell, passengers will see little change with the high standards of service being maintained.

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Gatwick’s best for short queues

Most passengers living in the south east, if given the choice between flying from Heathrow or Gatwick, will opt for Gatwick any day of the week.

The airport has avoided what has been dubbed “Heathrow Hell” has become a number one priority when booking flights.

Last week, Gatwick received the accolade of being voted the best out of the ten most busy airports in Europe, as far as queuing time at security is concerned.

Each quarter, a survey is conducted by the Airports Council International, with passengers from all over the world involved in it.

There are thirty five different categories, covering all sorts of services provided by airports, and Gatwick has really pulled out all the stops to get to this position.

Twelve months ago it was rated seventh out of ten and, according to Andy Flower, the managing director of BAA at Gatwick, this is a “testament to the dedication and commitment” of the staff at the airport.

Gatwick beat Amsterdam’s Schiphol, Paris’ Charles de Gaulle and Orly, Rome, Madrid, Copenhagen, Manchester, Heathrow and Frankfurt. The rating is no mean feat given that the airport handles in excess of 35 million passengers each year.

As anyone who has used Gatwick recently will tell you, the extra 650 staff at security and 7 extra security lanes have certainly paid dividends in reducing queues at what experts agree is the most stressful point of a passenger’s journey.

A survey conducted by the travel and tourism industry in Jan this year discovered that security queues were one of the top three gripes with passengers, along with slow check-in procedures and crowds in airport lounges.