Stansted Airport

London Stansted Airport – most commonly referred to as just Stansted Airport – is not, actually, in London. The airport is located in the neighboring county of Essex, near to the towns of Bishop Stortford and Harlow. However, it benefits from transport links to London, and for clarity’s sake is internationally known as London Stansted. It has the airport code STN.

Stansted is, in effect, Britain’s third airport. It handles around 25 million passengers a year, though there are plans to increase this number to 40 million by 2015. The airport is owned by BAA, however, in 2008 a report by the Competition Commission declared that BAA had too large a market share of airports in the United Kingdom. This is undeniably true; as well as Stansted, BAA had ownership of the two largest UK airports, London Heathrow and London Gatwick, as well as Scottish airports Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Glasgow International. In March 2009, BAA were told to sell three of their airports so as to meet competition rules. Stansted is to be sold, along with Gatwick, though BAA will retain possession of the largest UK airport: London Heathrow.

In operating terms, Stansted largely acts as a hub for the low cost carriers. Many European carriers have bases there, including EasyJet, bmi Baby and Thomson Holidays. In March 2009, the low cost reputation widened, when Malaysian budget airline Air Asia X began providing direct flights to Kuala Lumpa from Stansted.

Part of the reason for Stansted’s enduring image as a hub for low cost flights is the lack of international routes operating from the airports. For flights to London from the United States, public carriers tend to use the much larger and better equipped London Heathrow. Long haul services began in the mid 1990s from Stansted, but proved to be unsustainable and halted after 2001.

Stansted AirportTransatlantic crossings resumed in 2005, with three carriers operating from Stansted; Eos Airlines, MAXjet Airways and American Airlines. While these were originally just from Stansted to New York’s JFK Airport, this was soon expanded to include flights to and from Washington DC, Los Angeles and Las Vegas. Unfortunately, by April 2008, both Eos and MAXjet have ceased to exist, and American Airlines soon withdrew their flights to John F Kennedy in New York. This effectively ended the transatlantic route from Stansted, and general opinion is that it is unlikely to return.

Thankfully, some long haul flights do continue – such as Israeli airline El Al flights to Tel Aviv, and the aforementioned budget flights to Kuala Lumpa. These, however, are becoming the exception rather than the rule, and Stansted is now primarily used for European travel.

Plans to expand the airport to counter this decline have, as yet, been unsuccessful. The process was not helped by the formation of Stop Stansted Expansion, a pressure group which actively campaigns against expansion of the airport. While expansion of other London airports, particularly London Heathrow’s Terminal Five building, have taken place despite protests, as yet Stansted has been unsuccessful. They were not helped in that their most recent request for planning permission required 18 Listed buildings, and numerous domestic residences, to be demolished. Plans for a second runway have also been shelved.