London Stansted Airport

London Stansted Airport (IATA: STN, ICAO: EGSS) is a passenger airport located at Stansted Mountfitchet in the local government district of Uttlesford in Essex, 48 km (30 mi) northeast of Central London.

Stansted is a hub for a number of major European low-cost carriers, being the largest base for low-cost giant Ryanair with over 100 destinations served by the airline. It is the third-busiest airport in the United Kingdom and the third-largest airport serving the London area after Heathrow and Gatwick; it is one of London's six international airports, along with Luton, London City and Southend. Stansted's runway is also used by private companies such as the Harrods terminal which is opposite the main terminal building and handles private jets and some state visits.

The airport is owned and operated by BAA, which also owns and operates five other UK airports, and is itself owned by ADI Limited, an international consortium, which includes Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec and GIC Special Investments, that is led by the Spanish Ferrovial Group. However in March 2009, the UK Competition Commission ruled that BAA must sell Stansted within two years, a decision quashed within a year, but later upheld.


Stansted Airport has one main passenger terminal, near a village called Stansted Mountfitchet. There are three passenger satellites in which the departure gates are situated, one is connected to the main terminal by an air-bridge and the other two by the Stansted Airport Transit System people mover.

The terminal building was designed by Foster Associates with input from the structural engineer Peter Rice 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. The passenger total in 2010 was 18.6 million.

Airlines and destinations
Terminal and satellite buildings

Stansted is the newest passenger airport of all the main London airports. The terminal is an oblong glass building, and is separated in to three areas: Check-in concourse, arrivals and departures. There are no gates in the main terminal building, 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 from the departure hall and to the arrivals hall in the main terminal building. The third satellite building is not operated by the transit system, but is connected to the terminal building by a walkway. The fourth satellite building will also be served by transit trains.


The terminal facilities include several bureaux de change, luggage services, internet access, showers, and a chapel and multifaith prayer room for worship. There are over 60 shops, bars, restaurants and cafés, as well as lounges.

Air traffic control tower

Stansted's air traffic control tower is amongst the tallest in Britain and was the tallest at the time of its construction. It is located at the north east of the airfield just south of the terminal building. Its height is necessary as it needs to be able to view satellite 3 clearly as that's where almost half of Stansted's aircraft movements occur. Like most control towers in the UK, it can be seen from miles away, due to its height. All of the glass windows on the control tower have green tinted glass, which matches the windows on all the satellite buildings. This control tower has replaced the old control tower which has now been demolished. It was located to the west of the airfield, was very small and low with poor views of the new terminal parking areas. Thus a new control tower was needed because Stansted has grown massively since the new Terminal was opened to passengers in 1991.

Other infrastructure

There are several cargo buildings and hangars around the airfield. The main cargo centre is located by the control tower and handles most cargo operations, including aircraft such as the McDonnell Douglas MD-11 and the Boeing 747. There are a small number of hangars on the other side of the runway to the rest of the airport. The largest are located at the south east of the airfield, one of which is used by Ryanair and is able to hold up to five of their Boeing 737-800 aircraft.

Several airlines at one time had their head offices on the airport property. AirUK (later KLM uk) had its head office in the Stansted House. When Buzz existed, its head office was in the Endeavour House. When AB Airlines existed, its head office was in the Enterprise House. For a period Lloyd International Airways had its head office at the Lloyd House at Stansted.

Ground transport

Stansted Airport railway station is below the terminal building, with rail services to Cambridge, Leicester and the Midlands every 60 minutes operated by CrossCountry. The Stansted Express train runs to and from Liverpool Street station 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

Scheduled express bus or coach services run to and from Stratford (45 minutes), Victoria Coach Station (75 minutes), Liverpool Street Station (55 minutes) and Golders Green (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 Mary and Ipswich every 2 hours, 24 hours a day. This service operates as Airdirect. Also a new route has been introduced linking Stansted Airport to Grays via Brentwood , Ongar , and Basildon called route X3 operating 24 hours a day, every 2 hours. First Group operates a bus service between the airport and Clacton-on-Sea, (calling at Braintree, Bradwell, Marks Tey, Colchester North Station, 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 Stortford and Stansted Mountfitchet, most notably the 510 (Harlow to Stansted), 308 (Bishops Stortford to Stansted) and the 700 Express (Stevenage to Stansted). Villagelink services 5 and 7 connect to many of the nearby villages. Journeys are free of charge within the vicinity of the airport, by reason of a green travel plan instituted by the BAA to reduce staff demands for parking space.


Stansted is connected to northeast London and Cambridge by the M11 motorway and to Braintree, Colchester and Harwich by the A120, which is dual-carriageway until Braintree.

As of October 1996, the airport has 2,500 short stay parking spaces within walking distance to the terminal. In addition, as of the same month, the airport has over 8,000 long stay spaces located near the M11 motorway and A120 junction. A courtesy bus service links the long stay spaces to the terminal. Besides these standard short-stay and long-stay parking BAA also offers mid-stay which is comparable to 'long-stay parking but where the parking-spot is slightly closer to the main terminal BAA also offers facilities with BAA valet-parking where you dop-off your car at the terminal and staff parks it for you. And on return your car is delivered to you at the terminal building. As the other parking-facilities you can book your valet-parkin online via the airport's website

Transit system

The Stansted Airport Transit System connects two of the terminals via a 2-mile (3 km) free automated people mover service which runs on dual concrete track. The system uses a mix of Adtranz C-100 and Bombardier Innovia APM 100 vehicles to carry passengers to departure gates; unlike the similar Gatwick Airport transit, the Stansted transit is only accessible "airside" (i.e. only after passengers pass through security).

Proposed developments
Second runway plans abandoned

On 11 March 2008, BAA submitted a planning application (titled "G2") to expand the airport by 3 sq mi (8 km2) and for the construction of a second runway and terminal, etc., in line with a recommendation in the 2003 Air Transport White Paper (ATWP). This would have been the subject of a public inquiry and, if approved, would have allowed Stansted to handle more passengers than Heathrow did at the time of the application.

In May 2010 the BAA withdrew her plans to build a second runway at Stansted (together with witdrawing the plans to build a new runway at Heathrow The ATWP had anticipated that a second runway would be operational by 2011, but this date continued to slip. BAA's 2008 planning application envisaged operation commencing in 2015, and in 2009 BAA revised the anticipated opening date to 2017.

Prior to the United Kingdom's May 2010 General Election, all three major political parties pledged not to approve a second runway. Soon after the election, the new Coalition Government confirmed this and BAA withdrew its application for planning permission, having spent nearly £200 million preparing for the public inquiry and buying up properties.

The public inquiry into BAA's second runway application had been scheduled to start on 15 April 2009, but the start was delayed by Secretary of State 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. As 2010 drew to a close, BAA was still appealing against the Competition Commission ruling.

On 10 February 2010, Secretary of State John Denham, in an open letter, concluded that the inquiry could not reasonably start until after the General Election. In addition, he commented that the planning application documents were nearly two years old and would require updating. Eventually, BAA realised the futility of pursuing its G2 application in the context of the new government policy and withdrew it on 24 May 2010.

The campaign group Stop Stansted Expansion ("SSE"), 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. SSE fought for nearly 8 years against the additional runways. It still actively campaigns against what its members see as the unsustainable expansion of the airport. SSE was a major participant in the 2007 "G1" public inquiry and had committed to be a major participant in the anticipated inquiry into the 'G2' second runway proposal. SSE celebrated the withdrawal of the G2 planning application but immediately called upon BAA to sell the homes it had bought so that blighted communities might start to rebuild, and to apologise to all those whose property and lives had been blighted by the issue in 2008 of draft Compulsory Purchase Orders, now withdrawn. SSE is also now campaigning for a moratorium of at least 50 years on any further proposals for a second runway, given that the local community has had to fight several attempts to expand the airport since the 1960s.

Second World War

The airfield opened in 1943 and was used during the Second World War as RAF Stansted Mountfitchet 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 and the airport was then used as a base by several UK charter airlines. The US military returned in 1954 to extend the runway for a possible transfer to NATO. The transfer to NATO was never realised, however, and the airport continued in civil use, ending up under BAA control in 1966.

During the 1960s, 1970s and early 1980s 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 British airfields as well as those of many overseas countries.

Commercial operations

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 Chicago, however the route was unprofitable and was withdrawn in 1993.Continental Airlines also operated services in the late 1990s from Newark, but this service was stopped shortly after the 11 September 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 Airport. In 2006, MAXjet expanded their service with flights to Washington, D.C., Las Vegas and Los Angeles. 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.

Long haul transatlantic operations made a return to Stansted in June 2010, when Sun Country Airlines announced a seasonal weekly service from Stansted to Minneapolis. The flights made a re-fuelling stop-over in Gander, Newfoundland as the aircraft used for the flight, a Boeing 737–800, would not be able to complete a non-stop westbound flight from Stansted to Minneapolis. The flights operated from 11 June to 15 August 2010 and are likely to make a return next year, but possibly with a higher frequency and the flights may operate all year round, rather than in the summer.

Stansted also had scheduled and charter flights to Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver, 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 Lumpur, however from October 23 2011, the flights will transfer to Gatwick Airport instead.

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 m2 (64,000 sq ft) 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 Uttlesford 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 opened lasting from May until 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 a taxiway 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 747-200F, 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 Dublin 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 film Get Him to the Greek was filmed 2009 August, outside and inside the Stansted Airport

The show Mile High was partly filmed at Stansted Airport for both series, although the airport was sometimes referred to as "London Airport." The airport serves as the main base for the fictional airline 'Fresh!'. Clips shown of the airport include outside the terminal building, inside, and the gates.

The recent TV mockumentary Come Fly With Me was filmed at Stansted in late 2010.

A documentary called 'Stansted: The Inside Story' follows the daily workings of the airport.

Other productions recently filmed at Stansted Airport include Last Chance Harvey, Flight 93, London Dreams, and Bugs..

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


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