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London Stansted Airport is a passenger airport located at Stansted Mountfitchetmarker in the District of Uttlesfordmarker in Essex, north-east of central Londonmarker. It is north northeast of Bishop's Stortfordmarker and about outside Harlowmarker.

Stansted is a hub for a number of major European low-cost carriers. It is the third-busiest airport in the United Kingdom and the third-largest airport serving the London area after Heathrowmarker and Gatwickmarker; it is one of London's five international airports, along with Lutonmarker and London Citymarker.

Stansted is currently owned and operated by BAA, in its portfolio of five other UK airports, including Heathrow, and is itself owned by an international consortium led by the Spanish Ferrovial Group.. However in March 2009, the UK Competition Commission ruled that BAA must sell Stansted within two years.


Stansted Airport has one main passenger terminal, near a little village called felsted. There are three passenger satellites in which the departure gates are situated, two connected to the main terminal by an air-bridge and the other by the Stansted Airport Transit System people mover. A fourth satellite is now under construction and hopes to be finished by late 2009. The terminal facilities include several bureaux de change, luggage services, shops, restaurants and bars as well as internet access. Car hire and taxis can also be arranged from within the terminal building.

The terminal building was designed by Foster Associates and features a "floating" roof, supported by a space frame of inverted-pyramid roof trusses, creating the impression of a stylised swan in flight. The base of each truss structure is a "utility pillar", which provides indirect uplighting illumination and is the location for air-conditioning, water, telecommunications, and electrical outlets. The layout of the airport is designed to provide an unobstructed flow for passengers to arrive at the short-stay car park, move through the check-in hall, go through security and on to the departure gates all on the same level.

From 1997 to 2007 Stansted saw rapid expansion of passenger numbers on the back of the boom in low cost air travel, peaking at 24 million passengers in the 12 months to October 2007, but since then passenger numbers have been in decline. Passengers in the 12 months to May 2009 totalled 21 million.

Airlines and destinations

Stansted is mainly a low-cost airport with a majority of its flights operated by EasyJet and Ryanair although Stansted still offers many charter and long-haul flights. It's the third largest airport in Britain by passenger numbers and is also Britain's third largest freight airport. Ryanair operates more flights from Stansted than any other airport and offers 106 destinations both domestic and international in Europe and Northern Africa. The airlines and destinations that are operated to and from Stansted are displayed in the tables below.





Terminal building

Stansted's terminal building has a very different layout to many other airports, especially within the UK. The terminal is an oblong glass building which is separated in to three areas: Check-in concourse, Arrivals and Departures. There are no gates in the main terminal, instead there are three separate oblong satellite buildings in which the gates are located, with a fourth satellite building under construction. Two satellite buildings are reached by transit trains taking passengers to and from the departure hall in the terminal building. The third satellite building is not operated by the transit system, but is connected to the terminal building by a walkway. The future fourth satellite building is likely to be reached by the transit trains,it will be too far for passengers to walk.

A Thomas Cook A320 at Stansted

Ground transportation


Stansted Airport railway station linking London, Cambridge, Peterborough, Leicester and Birmingham with the Airport.
Stansted Airport railway stationmarker is below the terminal building, with rail services to Cambridgemarker, Leicestermarker and the Midlandsmarker every 60 minutes operated by CrossCountry. The Stansted Express train runs to and from Liverpool Street stationmarker in London every 15 minutes and the journey time is 45 minutes to one hour. A Monday - Saturday hourly service operates to Harlow and Stratford, London, calling at most stations.

Buses and coaches

A Terravision coach on the service to London.
Scheduled express bus or coach services run to and from Stratford (45 minutes), Victoria Coach Station (75 minutes), Liverpool Street Stationmarker (55 minutes) and Golders Greenmarker (70 minutes) (all in London), costing about half the train fare but taking longer. The bus station is next to the terminal building. National Express runs scheduled but infrequent direct coach services to the airport from Oxford as service JL737, taking about three hours, and hourly services to and from Cambridge. EasyBus and Terravision provide journeys between the airport and Central London.Excel operates a coach service to Capel St Marymarker and Ipswichmarker every 2 hours, 24 hours a day. This service operates as Airdirect. Also a new route has been introuced linking Stansted Airport to Graysmarker via Brentwood , Ongar , and Basildonmarker called route X3 operating 24 hours a day , every 2 hours.First group operate a service between the airport and Clacton-on-Sea, (calling at Braintree, Bradwell, Marks Tey, Essex University and Frating), the X22 service departs every 2 hours 7 days a week (excluding Christmas Day).

A few local bus services operate to the nearby communities of Bishops Stortfordmarker and Stansted Mountfitchetmarker, most notably the 510 (Harlow to Stansted), 308 (Bishops Stortford to Stansted) and the 700 Express (Stevenagemarker to Stansted). Villagelink services 5 and 7 connect to many of the nearby villages.


Stansted is connected to northeast London and Cambridge by the M11 motorway and to Braintree, Colchestermarker and Harwichmarker by the A120 dual-carriageway. The long term car park is situated about from the terminal and passengers need to allow at least twenty minutes to park and use a courtesy bus shuttle service prior to check-in. There are short term car parks next to the terminal building.

Proposed developments

London Stansted second runway

On 11 March 2008, BAA submitted a planning application for the construction of a second runway and terminal, in line with a recommendation in the 2003 Air Transport White Paper (ATWP). This will be the subject of another public inquiry. If approved, a second runway would allow Stansted to handle more passengers than Heathrow does today.

The ATWP anticipated that a second runway would be operational by 2011. BAA's 2008 planning application envisaged operation commencing in 2015. In 2009 BAA revised the anticipated opening date to 2017. The public inquiry into BAA's second runway application was scheduled to start on 15 April 2009, but the start has been delayed by Hazel Blears to allow time for BAA and the Government to consider the implications of the March 2009 Competition Commission's ruling that BAA must sell Stansted within two years.

The proposed expansion came into conflict with the listed building rules when it emerged that 18 listed buildings would need to be demolished.

The pressure group Stop Stansted Expansion, formed in 2002 as a working group of the North West Essex and East Herts Preservation Association, has some 7,000 members including over 100 local authorities and other organisations. It actively campaigns against what its members see as the unsustainable expansion of the airport.


Second World War

Unidentified B-26 of the 344th Bomb Group at Stansted, 1944.

The airfield opened in 1943 and was used during the second world war RAF Stansted Mountfitchetmarker was used by the Royal Air Force and the United States Army Air Force as a bomber airfield and as a major maintenance depot. Although the official name was Stansted Mountfitchet, the base was known as simply Stansted in both written and spoken form.

The station was first allocated to the USAAF Eighth Air Force in August 1942 as a heavy bomber airfield. As well as an operational bomber base, Stansted was also a ATSC maintenance and supply depot concerned with major overhauls and modification of B-26s. After D-Day these activities were transferred to France, but the base was still used as a supply storage area for the support of aircraft on the continent.

Postwar use

After the withdrawal of the Americans on 12 August 1945, Stansted was taken over by the Air Ministry and used by No. 263 Maintenance Unit, RAF for storage purposes. In addition, between March 1946 and August 1947, Stansted was used for housing German prisoners of war. The Ministry of Civil Aviation finally took control of Stansted in 1949, but the US military returned in 1954 to extend the runway for a possible transfer to NATOmarker. The transfer to NATO was never realised, however, and the airport returned to civil use in 1957, ending up under BAA control in 1966.

During the 60s, 70s and early 80s the Fire Service Training School (FSTS) was based on the Eastern side of the Airfield under the auspices of the Ministry of Transport and Civil Aviation, now the Civil Aviation Authority. The School was responsible for the training of all Aviation Fire Crews for UK Airfields as well as for many overseas countries.

Commercial operations

The Interior of Stansted Airport
The lawn in front of Stansted Airport, which has now been paved
View of the apron showing the main terminal and one of the satellite buildings
Beginning in 1966, after Stansted was placed under BAA control, the airport was used by holiday charter operators wishing to escape the higher costs associated with operating from Heathrow and Gatwick. From the outset, however, BAA and the British government planned to develop Stansted into London's third airport, to relieve Heathrow and Gatwick of excess congestion in the future. The airport's first terminal building opened in 1969 and was expanded the next year to handle the growing number of passengers.

In 1984, the government approved a plan to develop Stansted in two phases, involving both airfield and terminal improvements that would increase the airport's capacity to 15 million passengers per year. Construction of the current terminal building began in 1988 and was completed in March 1991, and was designed by the internationally acclaimed Lord Foster. At the time it was the most modern airport complex in the world and cost £100 million.

Long-haul scheduled services commenced in the early 1990s when American Airlines operated a transatlantic service between Stansted and Chicagomarker, however the route was unprofitable and was withdrawn in 1993. Continental Airlines also operated services in the late 1990s from Newarkmarker, but this service was stopped shortly after the September 11, 2001 attacks.

Long-haul services to the USA returned in late 2005, when Eos Airlines and MAXjet Airways commenced all-business-class services from Stansted to New York-JFK Airportmarker. In 2006, MAXjet expanded their service with flights to Washington, D.C.marker, Las Vegasmarker and Los Angelesmarker. American Airlines began daily flights to Stansted in October 2007 from New York-JFK and was originally expected to operate a second daily flight from April 2008. However, all three services to the USA have since been discontinued following the demise of MAXjet Airways in December 2007 and Eos Airlines in April 2008. Finally, in July 2008 American Airlines withdrew from the airport, spelling the end of Stansted transatlantic passenger operations.

Stansted also had scheduled and charter flights to Torontomarker, Montrealmarker and Vancouvermarker, but these flights to Canada have now ceased.

Long-haul services to Asia commenced in March 2009 with Malaysian low-cost airline Air Asia X providing direct flights to Kuala Lumpurmarker.

Since 1984 the airport's capacity had been limited to a maximum throughput of 25 million passengers per annum (25 mppa) in accordance with recommendations made by the 1984 public inquiry and confirmed by the Government of the day.

A major expansion programme to the existing terminal took place between 2007 and 2009, adding nearly 5,900 square metres of floorspace to give space for additional baggage carousels, a new immigration and passport control hall and a hypostyle arrivals hall with improved facilities.

In November 2006 Uttlesfordmarker district council rejected a BAA planning application to increase the permitted number of aircraft movements and to remove the limit on passenger numbers. BAA immediately appealed against the decision and a public inquiry was launched that lasted from May to October 2007. Planning Inspector Alan Boyland made his recommendations in January 2008. Those recommendations were largely followed by the Secretary of State for Transport (Geoff Hoon) and the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (Hazel Blears), who jointly allowed the applicant's Appeal in October 2008. A series of legal challenges by community campaign group Stop Stansted Expansion (SSE) were rejected by the High Court during 2009.

In 2008 57 people were arrested after Plane Stupid, the environmental activist group, broke through the barriers and created a 'stockade' on within the airport grouds which resulted in 52 flights being cancelled.

Incidents and accidents

Stansted has been designated by the UK Government as its preferred airport for any hijacked planes requesting to land in the UK. This is because its design allows a hijacked airliner to be isolated well away from any terminal buildings or runways, allowing the airport to continue to operate while negotiations are carried out, or even while an assault or rescue mission is undertaken. Staff at the airport receive special training for dealing with hijacks. For this reason Stansted has been involved in more hijack incidents than might be expected for an airport of its size.

  • On 31 March 1998, a chartered Hawker Siddeley HS 748 (owned by Emerald Airways), carrying the Leeds United football team, suffered an engine explosion on take off resulting in an emergency landing and evacuation. All onboard survived, with only a few suffering minor injuries.

  • On 22 December 1999, Korean Air Cargo Flight 8509, a Boeing 747, crashed shortly after take off from the airfield due to pilot error. The only people onboard at the time were the aircrew and all four were killed. The aircraft crashed in Hatfield Forest near the village of Great Hallingbury.

  • On 6 February 2000, an Ariana Afghan Airlines Boeing 727 with 156 people on board was hijacked and flown to Stansted Airport. After a four-day stand-off the hostages on board were safely freed and the incident ended peacefully. It later emerged that the motive behind the hijack was to gain asylum in the UK, sparking debate about immigration into the country. A large number of passengers on board the plane also applied for asylum. In July 2004, it was reported that a number of hijackers had won their bid for asylum in the UK, their convictions for hijacking having been quashed for misdirection of the jury in 2003.

  • On 27 February 2002, a Ryanair Boeing 737-800 aircraft operating Ryanair Flight 296 from Dublinmarker to Stansted was evacuated shortly after landing when ground staff observed smoke from one of the engines. Subsequent investigations found that the likely cause of the incident was smoking oil from a broken bearing as there was no sign of fire damage. Although the aircraft was fully evacuated within 90 seconds, the air crew struggled to open the emergency doors, and The UK Air Accidents Investigation Branch recommended changes to training procedures for air-crew to allow better handling of similar situations in future.

In popular culture


The show Mile High was partly filmed at Stansted Airport for both series. Even though the airport was named "London Airport," the airport clearly resembles Stansted. The airport helps to set the scene to provide the series' main base for the fictional airline 'Fresh!'. Clips shown of the airport include outside the terminal building, inside, and the gates.

Other productions recently filmed at Stansted Airport include Last Chance Harvey, Flight 93 and London Dreams. Bugs,BBC TV show filmed during the 90s.

Adverts including a Nintendo DS advert (starring Patrick Stewart and Julie Walters) and a advert were also filmed at Stansted Airport.

See also


  • Freeman, Roger A. (1994) UK Airfields of the Ninth: Then and Now. After the Battle ISBN 0900913800
  • Maurer, Maurer (1983). Air Force Combat Units Of World War II. Maxwell AFB, Alabama: Office of Air Force History. ISBN 0892010924.
  • USAAS-USAAC-USAAF-USAF Aircraft Serial Numbers--1908 to present
  • The Bishop's Stortford Herald newspaper, 26 April 2007.

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