Go to content

As a start up company in 1953 passenger flights were minimal.  Where they did occure airport staff would handle check in - which is a million miles away from what it is now. Once that was completed the passengers would be guiuuded to the aircraft where the air crew would take over. On cargo flights loadmasters would be on hand to supervise the cargo handlers, close the doors and take care of the flight crew. The moved from Southen to Blackbushe saw more passengers being handled, but little sophisication was needed. Counting 36 heads about to board a Dakota flight to Beauvais is a lot easier than ensuring 336 people get checked in an are boarded on an Airbus A300 to Palma. When Dan-Air began taking delivery of larger aircraft and took up residency at Gatwick in 1960 things developed very quickly. for a start Gatwick was collosal compared to Blackbushe. Security was now much more important. Blackbushe handled very few passengers for a handful of airlines. Gatwick would see dozens of aircraft flying all over the world. Rows of check in desk had been made available. Handling agents were now springing up. It is not logical for airlines that have one flight a day to have a dedicated team of staff to handle those passengers and so a handling agent would look after several airlines. Dan-Air had several of its own uniformed personel to handle its services. The charter flights were, naurally seasonal and often staff would be surplus to requirements as winter arrived. Dan-Air decided to outsource its ground crew to a third party company - Airbourne Aviation. The company worked well, but made a mistake when it decided to merge with Messrs Metcalf and Foukes to form Gatwick Handling. Within a short time the company experienced financial difficulties and went into liquidation, putting Dan-Air and the other airlines, who had given the now-defunct company their business at Gatwick in a difficult position. To secure the check-in desks Dan-Air had contracted from Gatwick Handling and to minimise additional costs arising from its handling agent's failure, as well as to avoid confusing the travelling public who had already been informed by tour operators and travel agents to report to Gatwick Handling for check-in, Dan-Air's parent Davies and Newman agreed with BAA and the failed company's other creditors to continue trading under the same name in return for settling outstanding debts.
Dan-Air's requirement for additional check-in desks at Gatwick resulted in discussions about the formation of a new joint handling company with fellow independent airline and airport resident Caledonian Airways, whose expansion had led to a requirement for more check-in desks at the airport as well. Although talks between both parties made good progress, the latter backed out of a deal following its successful bid to take over British United Airways (BUA) in late-November 1970. As Britain's biggest independent airline and leading independent scheduled carrier, as well as Gatwick's largest resident airline, BUA already had a well-developed ground handling infrastructure at the airport. This enabled it to handle all of its own flights in-house and provide ground handling services to third parties. For Caledonian this meant that it no longer required the services of a third-party ground handler at Gatwick. As a consequence of Caledonian's change in circumstances, D&N needed to find a new partner who was willing to co-own the yet to be formed joint handling company. An expression of interest from Laker Airways founder and majority owner Freddie Laker, who wanted his airline to attain a greater degree of autonomy at its home airport, ended D&N's search for a partner to share control of a joint handling company.
BAA agreed to award the new company a concession to become one of the airport's appointed ground handlers. This was followed by the official signing of the contract in February 1972. Signatories included Dan-Air managing director Alan Snudden, airport director David Livingstone and Freddie Laker. The contractual period for the licence covering Gatwick Handling's appointment as an airport concessionaire was ten years. That arrangement afforded Gatwick Handling security of tenure to invest in new ground handling equipment to enable Gatwick's airlines to serve the airport with the then latest-generation widebodied aircraft.
The expiry of Gatwick Handling's original ten-year licence in February 1982 coincided with the collapse of half-owner Laker Airways the same month. Initially, this resulted in D&N taking full control of Gatwick Handling. However, the BAA insisted that other airlines should become additional shareholders to prevent D&N subsidiary Dan-Air from deriving an unfair advantage from its sister company's status as monopoly provider of third-party ground handling services at Gatwick Airport. US carriers Northwest and Delta, whose transatlantic flights used Gatwick as their London terminal as a result of restrictions on access to Heathrow implemented in the Bermuda II UK–US bilateral agreement and whose ground handling in London had been contracted to Gatwick Handling, each acquired a 25% stake in the ground handler in 1983 and 1984, respectively. These moves ensured Gatwick Handling's continuity and stability. They also resulted in the new shareholders replacing the former Laker representatives on the ground handler's board of directors with their own people.
To reduce its dependence on Gatwick and to take advantage of new business opportunities at other UK airports in the late-1980s, Gatwick Handling established GH Manchester and GH Stansted to begin ground handling operations at Manchester and Stansted respectively. (The former took over the operations of Manchester Handling, an associate company of Dan-Air formed in the mid-80s.
Another change in Gatwick Handling's ownership occurred, when BA acquired D&N along with some of the assets of Dan-Air for £1 in late-October 1992. As the UK flag carrier handled all of its Gatwick flights in-house and did not require Gatwick Handling's check-in desks, this resulted in disposal of the stake it had inherited in the ground handling company to remaining shareholders Delta and Northwest in 1993, thus dividing the ground handler's entire share capital between the two American carriers. A new international expansion strategy that saw Gatwick Handling launch its first overseas ground handling operation in Ghana, West Africa, in 1994, replaced the by then official Gatwick Handling International name with its abbreviated form GHI. GHI's ownership changed again in 1998, when Delta and Northwest sold out to the Go-Ahead Group. Following GHI's merger with Midland Airport Services, British Midland Handling Services and Reed Aviation in 2000, all of Go-Ahead's UK aviation interests were rebranded as Aviance UK.

As agents for Dan-Air,  Gatwick Handling was responsible for
  • Representation, Administration and Supervision
  • Passenger Services (Check in, Arrival & Departure)
  • Load Control, Communications and Flight OPS
  • Ramp Services (Baggage Loading, Ramp Technical, Cleaning -Toilet and Water Service)
  • Cargo and Mail Services (Ramp & Warehouse)
  • Support Services (ULD, Surface Transport)
  • Security (Passenger profiling, Cargo X-ray)

In addition to check-in and passneger handling carried out by Gatwick HAndling and other handling agents on their behalf, Dan-Air also had offices located in airports that were responsible for:

  • Tickets Sales
  • Resevations
  • Customer Services
  • Interlining


nick maxted
25 Apr 2020
the young ticket agent is Miss Joanne Price,we both started at Dan-Air on the same day in 1985
nicholas maxted
29 Feb 2020
this picture was taken at the Gatwick ticket desk,the young lady in the Dan Air uniform is Joanne Price,to her right is Sie Ian Pedder and to her left is Vic Shepperd
Back to content