Should You Pay for Premium Security or Passport Control at Gatwick Airport?

Jul 21, 2019

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If you’ve travelled in or out of London Gatwick Airport (LGW), you may have been enticed by the idea of a premium express lane at either security or passport control. For premium-class passengers as well as those elite status passengers flying economy, airlines may issue express passes for these lanes.

Gatwick also sells access to anyone who wishes to pay for it. The passes are available for both South and North terminals and are sold at the following prices:

  • Premium Security for £5 per person (children 2 to 11 years and adults)
  • Premium Passport Control North for £9.99 per adult, and £7.50 for children aged 2 to 11 years

Infants (i.e. those aged under 2) are free of charge with an accompanying adult. Passes need to booked online, in advance.

The actual experience of both security and passport control in these premium lanes should only differ in terms of potential reduced wait times and number of passengers using those lanes. The experience is otherwise the same as you would experience normally — you’ll still have to remove liquids and laptops from bags for scanning purposes. It might sound like a great idea for a family travelling with strollers and plenty of hand luggage for a big family holiday, but while you might not wait in line, there won’t be any special staff to help you with all your luggage.

The passes do not guarantee just how fast the experience will be, or how much time it will actually save compared to the normal lines, as this varies hugely depending on time of day, week and year. For example, the South terminal has a large number of long-haul flights departing on British Airways to the Caribbean and on Norwegian to North America in the late mornings and early afternoons. So during this period, the South security is likely to be very busy.

So, this could be a real time saver right? In theory, yes. The only issue is that in the more than dozens of times I’ve used both Gatwick terminals at various times of the day, week and year, I’ve never waited more than five minutes in total to pass through security. So paying the £5 per person would save me only a couple of minutes at most, so I don’t consider this to be worth it. I’ve often seen the priority lines to be exactly the same length as the normal lines.

Similarly when talking about inbound traffic, with the e-gates available to UK passport holders (and other nationalities), I have never waited more than five minutes to use these gates. At the more expensive price of £9.99, unless you value your time incredibly highly, it’s unlikely to be worth it, as it will probably also only save you a few minutes.

If you were travelling at a super peak time, like 6pm on the Friday of a summer bank holiday weekend, it might save you a decent amount of time. But at most normal travel times, Gatwick is fairly efficient.

If you do want to treat yourself with something special with which to start your travel (and are willing to pay for it), you may wish to consider splurging for lounge access. Some of the lounges at Gatwick can be accessed for free with a Priority Pass membership, however, they get so full that they often restrict access to those who have pre-booked or those who have purchased a one-off pass in advance.

Featured image by Gettys Images

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