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London Luton Airport (previously called Luton International Airport) is an international airport located east of the town centre in the Borough of Lutonmarker in Bedfordshire, England and is north of Central London. The airport is from Junction 10a of the M1 motorway. It is the fourth largest airport serving the London area after Heathrowmarker, Gatwickmarker and Stanstedmarker, and is one of London's five international airports along with London City Airportmarker.

In 2008, total passengers at London Luton increased by 2.6% to 10,180,734, the first time over 10 million passengers were handled in a single year, making it the fifth busiest airport in the UK. The airport serves as a hub for EasyJet, Monarch Airlines, Thomson Airways and Ryanair. Most of the routes served are within Europe, although there are some charter airline routes to intercontinental destinations.


Early history

An airport was opened on the site on the 16 July 1938 by the Secretary of State for Air, Kingsley Wood. During the Second World War it was a base for Royal Air Force fighters. The topography of the Luton area, situated where the valley of the River Lea cuts its way through the north-east end of the Chiltern Hillsmarker, has influenced the location of the airport. The airport occupies a hill-top location, with a drop-off about at the western end of the runway

Following the war the land was returned to the local council who continued activity at the airport as a commercial operation, providing a base for charter airlines such as Autair (which went on to become Court Line), Euravia (now Thomson Airways, following previous growth as Britannia Airways) and Monarch Airlines. In 1949 English Electric set up a missile development site on the northern slope of the airport, which when closed in the 60's became the base for Carass Airways Catering. In 1972, Luton Airport was the most profitable airport in the country. It suffered a severe setback in August 1974 when a major package holiday operator, Clarksons, scheduling flights via its airline Court Line (which also operated local bus services), went bankrupt.

1980s and 1990s

The next 15 years saw a process of rebuilding, including the opening of a new international terminal in 1985. In 1990, the airport was renamed London Luton Airport to re-emphasize the airport's connection to the UK capital. In 1991, another setback occurred when Ryanair, who had flown from the airport to Irelandmarker for a number of years, transferred its base of operations to Stanstedmarker. Later in the 90s, MyTravel Group began charter flights from the airport, using the "Airtours" brand and new 'low cost' scheduled flights from Debonair and EasyJet, the latter making Luton its hub.

In August 1997, to fund a £80 million extension of the airport, the council issued a 30 year management contract to a public private partnership consortium, London Luton Airport Operations Limited, which was headed by Barclays Bank. Barclays later sold to TBI plc.

The main feature of the development phase in 1998 was a £40 million terminal made from aluminium and glass, based on an original design by Foster and Partners. The new terminal, which was officially opened in November 1999 by Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, houses 60 check-in desks, baggage and flight information systems and a wide range of shops, restaurants and bars.

Recent history

The terminal building
In September 2004, development work started on a major project to transfer departures from the International Terminal Building built in 1985, to the previously unused first floor of the 1999 Terminal Building, a area featuring a spectacular vaulted ceiling, which was completed with the new terminal, but intended to lie unused until required. The new departure hall opened on schedule on 1 July 2005 and features a new boarding pier extending 200 metres out between the airport's north & east Aprons and relocated security, customs and immigration facilities. In January 2005, London Luton Airport Operations Limited was acquired by Airport Concessions Development Limited, a company owned by Abertis Infraestructuras (90%) and Aena Internacional (10%), both Spanishmarker companies. Abertis is a European infrastructure provider, whilst Aena Internacional is the international business arm of the Spanish national airport and air traffic control organisation.

All business-class airline Silverjet operated flights to Newark Liberty Internationalmarker and Dubai International Airportmarker from a dedicated terminal between 2006 and 2008 however the airline has since ceased operations.

In early September, ground handling agent Servisair announced a decision to close their operations at the airport by the end of the year. The decision to sell its operation to Aviance came because three ground handling firms were competing for a shrinking market at the hub.

Development plans and the future

In 2004 the airport management announced that they supported the government plans to expand the facilities to include a full-length runway and a new terminal.. However, local campaign groups, including Luton and District Association for the Control of Aircraft Noise (LADACAN) and Stop Luton Airport Plan (SLAP) opposed the new expansion plans, for reasons including noise pollution and traffic concerns; LADACAN also claimed that various sites, including Someries Castle, a Scheduled Monument, would be threatened by the expansion. On 6 July 2007, it was announced that the owners of London Luton Airport decided to scrap plans to build a second runway and new terminal due to financial reasons.

The airport today

The airport possesses a single runway, running roughly east to west, with a length of at an elevation of . The runway is equipped with an Instrument Landing System rated to Category IIIB, allowing the airport to continue operating in conditions of poor visibility. All the airport facilities lie to the north of the runway. The terminal and aprons have a somewhat unusual layout, with ground-side access to the terminal being via a road tunnel to a bus station, drop off area, taxi rank and short term car park on the runway side of the terminal building. Most of the aircraft stands are located on the northern side of the terminal building, away from the runway and connected to it by a 'U' shaped set of taxiways and aprons that together encircle the terminal.

The northern side of the U-shaped apron is ringed by a continuous line of hangars and other buildings, emphasizing the fact that Luton is a major maintenance base for several airlines including Thomson Airways, Monarch Airlines and EasyJet. By contrast to the heavily built up apron area, the airport's southern boundary is entirely rural with only a few isolated farm buildings and houses close to the airport boundary.

The airport remains in municipal ownership, owned by Luton Borough Council but managed by the private sector London Luton Airport Operations Limited (LLOAL). London Luton Airport has a CAA Public Use Aerodrome Licence (Number P835) that allows flights for the public transport of passengers or for flying instruction. An indicator of the importance of the airport to the economy of Luton is that Luton is reported to have the highest number of taxicabs per head of population in the United Kingdommarker. The airport has become even more critical to the future of Luton given the recent closure of the Vauxhall Motors factory.

Airport statistics

Number of Passengers Number of Movements Freight
1997 3,238,458 63,586 21,354
1998 4,132,818 70,667 25,654
1999 5,284,810 79,423 23,224
2000 6,190,499 84,745 32,992
2001 6,555,155 83,707 23,070
2002 6,486,770 80,924 20,459
2003 6,797,175 85,302 22,850
2004 7,535,614 94,379 26,161
2005 9,147,776 107,892 23,108
2006 9,425,908 116,131 17,993
2007 9,927,321 120,238 38,095
2008 10,180,734 117,859 40,518
Source: United Kingdom Civil Aviation Authority

London Luton Airport in the media

London Luton Airport is widely known as a result of the Airline and Luton Airport television series. Airline follows the staff of EasyJet at Luton and the airline's other hubs across the country whilst the 2005 series, named after the airport followed the life of employees at the airport in a similar format to the show Airport which follows staff at London Heathrow Airportmarker.

The airport was also mentioned in a famous Campari advert featuring Lorraine Chase, with the punch line "Were you truly wafted here from paradise?". " Na Lut'n Airport". This advert was the inspiration for a 1979 UK hit by Cats U.K. entitled "Luton Airport". The airport was also mentioned in the Piranha Brothers sketch from Monty Python's Flying Circus, as being the place where one of the brothers, Dinsdale, thinks that a giant hedgehog named Spiny Norman sleeps.

Surface access


The airport lies a few miles away from the M1 motorway, which runs southwards to London, northwards to Leedsmarker and connects to the M25 motorwaymarker. There is a short stay car park adjacent to the terminal, together with medium and long term on airport car parks to the west and east of the terminal respectively and linked to the terminal by shuttle buses. Pre-booked off airport parking is also available from several independent operators.


Luton Airport Parkway railway stationmarker was built in 1999 to serve the airport. It is positioned on the Midland Main Line.First Capital Connect (FCC) is the principal operator, with services to Bedfordmarker, St Albansmarker, London, Wimbledonmarker, Suttonmarker, Gatwick Airportmarker and Brightonmarker.East Midlands Trains semi-fast services call hourly going south to London St Pancrasmarker and north to Leicestermarker, Nottinghammarker, Sheffieldmarker and Leedsmarker.

A shuttle bus service connects the station to the airport, a distance of just over a mile. There is a charge for the service. To provide additional capacity, LLAOL have contracted the shuttle service to FCC (since 20 January 2008), whose parent company FirstGroup have invested £1.3 million in a fleet of four articulated buses labelled 'StreetCars'. The new buses are 18 metres long and can accommodate up to 115 passengers plus baggage.

There are plans to replace the shuttle buses with a segregated tracked transit system.


EasyBus operates a non-stop service from London Luton to central London. It is a low-cost operator, though its vehicles all feature air-conditioning. Medium sized bags are carried free, as well as hand-baggage. Its lowest fares are only available for passengers booking on its website, though tickets are available from the EasyBus sales desks in the international arrivals hall.

Terravision also operated a low cost service from Luton airport to Victoria station stopping at Brent Cross, Marble Arch and Baker Street.

Local buses connect Luton Airport with Luton town centre and other local places. Direct bus services to London are operated by both Green Line Coaches and EasyBus (with service to Victoria Coach Station). National Express coaches link the airport to London Stansted Airport as well as destinations in the Midlandsmarker and north of England.

First Capital Connect FTR buses providing a link between the airport and Luton Airport Parkway railway station. This service runs every 10 minutes during the day and is branded as Train2Plane.

Airlines and destinations

Luton airport is London's fourth airport and is the fifth busiest in the UK, therefore it has many destinations across Europe with low-cost, domestic and charter carriers. The destinations served from Luton are shown in the tables below.

Scheduled airlines

Charter operators

Cargo operators

See also


  1. Ordnance Survey (2006). OS Explorer Map 182 - St Albans & Hatfield. ISBN 9780319237809.
  2. Ordnance Survey (2006). OS Explorer Map 193 - Luton & Stevenage. ISBN 9780319237830.
  3. Ordnance Survey
  4. London Luton Airport - Future Developments
  5. Luton and District Association for the Control of Aircraft Noise - Communities affected
  6. Luton and District Association for the Control of Aircraft Noise - Campaign Headlines
  7. Stop Luton Airport Plan
  8. New runway plans at Luton shelved
  9. "Luton South", UK Polling Report
  10. Total number of Terminal and Transit Passengers during each year.
  11. Total number of flight movements (takeoffs and landings) during each year.
  12. Total volume of freight (tonnes) during each year.
  13. UK Airport Statistics

External links

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