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Standsted is little known to American passengers, but occupies an important role for bargain hunters in Britain.

It is a major hub for both Ryanair and Easyjet, making it a popular airport for people traveling to Europe on a bargain priced ticket.

 
 
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London Stansted Airport (STN)

Major hub for Ryanair and easyJet
 

Stansted's distinctive terminal building can be seen in this image.  Both arrivals and departures occur on the same level.

Part five of a seven part series on London's airports - please also visit

1.  About London's airports in General
2.  London's Best and Worst Airports and Why
3.  London Heathrow Airport LHR

4.  London Gatwick Airport LGW
5.  London Stansted Airport STN
6.  London Luton Airport LTN
7.  London City Airport LCY

 

 

Stansted is a much smaller airport than its two larger siblings, and with a single terminal building all on one level is easy to get around.

Used predominantly by budget and charter airlines, few Americans use the airport, but perhaps if your travels take you to both the UK and Europe, you should consider buying a ticket to London from the US, and then a separate ticket on a budget carrier from London on to Europe.

In such a case, you may well find yourself flying via Stansted.

Currently Stansted is operating below maximum capacity which makes the airport less stressed and crowded.

An Introduction to London Stansted Airport (STN)

Stansted is the second newest of London's five airports.  Age wise, the five airports score :

Airport

First Flights

First Commercial Service

Heathrow

1917

1946

Gatwick

1930

1934

Stansted

1943

1949 - 1954, then from 1957 onwards

Luton

1938

1938

London City

1987

1987


Stansted today is a single runway single terminal airport, and is Britain's third largest airport.

The airport operates 24/7, with 29 airlines flying to 162 destinations in 34 countries.

The History of London Stansted Airport

Stansted - originally known as Stansted Mountfitchet Airfield after the nearby small town - was built by the US Air Force in 1942, with the first flight occurring in 1943.  It was used for the balance of the war as a bomber airfield and major maintenance base.

After the war, the UK Air Ministry took over the airfield, using it for storage, and, for a while, as a camp for German prisoners of war.

In 1949 it was passed to the Ministry of Civil Aviation, and for a while it was considered as becoming London's official second airport after Heathrow, but this designation was given to Gatwick instead in 1952.

Stansted was returned to the US military in 1954, who proceeded to lengthen the runway while the airfield was considered as possibly being transferred to NATO.

This never happened, and the airport returned to civil use in 1957, and became one of BAA's airports in 1966.

For a while Stansted's future seemed assured, but then the government decided the best direction for new airport development around London would be at the mouth of the Thames Estuary, at Maplin.  Stansted was passed over again, but after the Maplin project became too expensive and was deemed impractical, in 1979 Stansted again reappeared on the radar as London's number three airport.

Stansted has had ups and downs in passenger numbers, with its fortunes closely linked to the low cost and charter airlines that operate from its facilities.

Things were looking up when it had new airlines Zoom, Eos, and Maxjet all start service to Canada and the US, plus American Airlines add service as a competitive response, back in 2005.  Unfortunately these new services all ended in 2007 and 2008, and the airport's passenger numbers have slightly declined in the last couple of years as a result, after an all time high in 2007.

Stansted - a Single Terminal Airport

Stansted today has a single terminal building, designed by noted architect Sir Norman Foster.  This was completed in March 1991 after three years of construction, and replaced the earlier building that had opened in 1969.

A major expansion to this occurred in 2007-8, with 60,000 sq ft of extra space added.

The terminal features both arrivals and departures on the same level.

Future Plans for Stansted

The big issue/opportunity for Stansted currently is building a second runway, as was recommended in government white papers in both 2003 and 2006.  Unfortunately, the necessary district planning approval was refused, although a subsequent appeal and public inquiry resulted in some reversals.  The matter remains currently unresolved.

Adding a second runway would allow Stansted to grow to 35 million passengers a year, and further developments could boost the airport's capacity way further, up to potentially 68 million passengers a year.

In late 2008 Stansted was given permission to increase its annual flights from 241,000 to 264,000, with a matching increase in passenger numbers from a previous maximum of 25 million to a new maximum of 35 million - this may or may not be achievable with a single runway, although it is in line with the passenger numbers at Gatwick, also with a single runway.  The achievement of such a high number of passengers really depends on average passengers per plane, and to date, Stansted has tended to serve smaller planes than Gatwick.

In April 2009 a formal inquiry was to commence into the issue of adding a second runway to the airport, but the start of this has been delayed for rather weak reasons.

If such a runway is added, it is unlikely to be operational prior to 2020 at the earliest.

Together with a second runway, there are plans for a second terminal building.

The other big change on Stansted's horizon is the forced sale of the airport by BAA.  In March 2009 Britain's Competition Commission ruled that BAA must sell Stansted within two years (as well as already offered-for-sale Gatwick).

Plans for an extra runway at Stansted became a lot less likely in May 2010, when the new Conservative/Liberal Democrat coalition government in Britain announced it would oppose any plans for an extra runway at Stansted (and it would also pose extra runways at Gatwick and Heathrow).

Connecting between Terminals

This section is not applicable for Stansted and its single terminal.

Connections into London

By road - car, bus, shuttle, taxi

Stansted is located right next to the M11, and is about 20 miles north of the M25 circular motorway around London.  This makes it reasonably accessible for most vehicular traffic.

To travel by bus into London you'd use the easyBus service, which operates 19 seater mini-coaches every 20 minutes during most of the day, and 30 minutes at off-peak times.

Buses to the airport start from 3am, with the last bus to the airport leaving at 10.20pm.  Buses from the airport start at 7am with the last bus leaving the airport at 1.05am.  The service operates daily except for Christmas Day.

The service has two London stops - the Baker St Underground station on the north side of London, which has underground connections to many different lines, and Victoria Station on the south side of London.  It is about 85 minutes between the airport and Baker Street, and about 100 minutes between the airport and Victoria Station.

Fares range in price upwards from 2 each way, depending on if you buy them online in advance, or from the driver when boarding the bus.

National Express offer services to Victoria Station, with intermediate stops at Marble Arch, Baker St, and Marylebone, as well as stops at St Johns Wood, Finchley Rd and Golders Green.

They operate service about every 20 minutes, and it takes a little over 90 minutes to travel all the way between Victoria Station and Stansted.  A one way ticket is 10.

National Express also has service from Stansted to other parts of the country.

A shuttle service that will take you all the way to/from your hotel is the Snowdrop Shuttle.  This operates an hourly service, and spends the first hour traveling around London's hotels before then driving up to Stansted (taking another hour or so to get there).  The service starts/ends in Earl's Court/Kensington (so this will be a two hour journey) then next is Bayswater, then Picadilly, then Russell Square, then Kings Cross (which will be the shortest journey time).  Fares are 15 each way and you need to prebook your travel with them.

Taxis are available at the airport, of course, and a journey into London is probably going to cost about 100 or more.

If you're returning back to the airport, you should consider using a 'Minicab' service which will probably cost about half what a Black Cab would cost.

Most hotels will arrange a Minicab for you, but they often add an extra charge onto the cab's fee, so if you are able to find a Minicab service in the area of your hotel and arrange with them directly, that may save you money.  On the other hand, detractors of this idea would point out that Minicabs are not as rigorously quality controlled as Black Cabs, and there is the risk you might get a bad car, a bad driver, or not be collected on time as arranged.

So, you pay your money and take your chances.  If you have friends in London, they may be able to recommend a cab service for you.  About the closest thing to an 'official' listing of Minicab companies is this one on the Transport for London website - at least, if you choose a Minicab operator from this list, you know you're dealing with an officially licensed company.

Underground

There is no underground service to Stansted.

Train

Stansted has a train station directly below its main terminal building, making the train a convenient way to get to/from the airport, subject to the issue of traveling between where your journey starts/ends in London and Liverpool St Station, which is where the train service operates from.

The station was opened in 1991 as part of the new terminal building development, and is a spur branch line off the West Anglia main line, making it easy to know when to get off the train (because it is the end of the line).

The Stansted Express operates trains every 15 minutes, seven days a week.  It is a 46 minute journey, which also includes a stop at the Tottenham Hale underground station (which is 11 or so minutes travel time from Liverpool St and 35 or so minutes from Stansted).  Services start from Liverpool St at 3.40am weekdays and 4.10am weekends, and end with a last departure at 11.25pm.  Services from the airport start at 5.30am and end at 1.30am except for Saturdays, when the last train is at 12.30am.

Fares are 18/26.80 (one way/roundtrip) if prepurchased online and 1 each way higher if purchased on the train or at a ticket machine at the station.

Tottenham Hale station, in the Underground's Fare zone 3, has Victoria Line service, which might sometimes get you better connections in/out of central London than the underground lines which stop at Liverpool St Station, a train station that is on the eastern side of the city.

Fares to Tottenham Hale are slightly lower - 16/24.60 for prepurchased tickets.

Trains operated by the CrossCountry train company provide more or less hourly services, to other places in England such as Cambridge, Leicester, and Birmingham, and you can change at Peterborough to take trains north to York and Scotland.

Connecting to other London airports

In addition to traveling in to London, then out of London to the other airport, with several changes of train/tube/bus/whatever along the way, there are some direct airport to airport services to make the process slightly simpler.

Heathrow :  National Express coaches travel between the two airports, once or twice an hour, and take about 90 minutes for the journey.

Gatwick :  National Express coaches travel between the two airports, on an hourly service that goes via Heathrow  Journey time varies from 2 hrs 40 minutes to 3 hrs 20 mins.  A ticket costs about 29.30

Luton :  Luton is not very far from Stansted, as the crow flies, but has no direct motorway connection.  National Express offers coach transfers between the two airports, with irregular departure times (about once every hour or so) and a journey time of about an hour and a half.  A oneway journey is 11.70.

London City Airport :  We're unaware of any direct service connecting Stansted and London City Airports.  You should take a train to Liverpool St Station and then either a taxi from there to London City Airport (about a 7 mile journey), or you could take an underground train to connect with the DLR at either Bank (this station is undergoing renovation with connections sometimes difficult) or Tower Hill, then take the DLR on to LCY.

General

Stansted has been owned by BAA (British Airports Authority) since 1966, but now must be sold by some time in early 2011 as part of the breakup of the BAA monopoly on London's airports.

Stansted is the British government's preferred airport to use in cases where hijacked planes are seeking to land in Britain.  This is because the airport layout allows for hijacked planes to be parked safely well away from the rest of the airport at a remote location off to the west of the airport, allowing normal airport operations to continue alongside a hijack situation.

According to Stansted's website in April 2009, the Starbucks store at the airport has the greatest single store sales of any Starbucks store in the world.

There are public showers in both the international arrivals area and the departure lounge (in the secure part of the airport).

Left Luggage/Lockers

There are no luggage lockers in the airport due to security concerns, but you can use luggage storage rooms located in the public (rather than secure) area between check-in zones G and H.

All items stored are security screened.  Currently, there is a fee of 8.75 per item per day (or part thereof).

Useful Links

Stansted Official website

Stansted Express train service

National Express coach service


Part five of a seven part series on London's airports - please also visit

1.  About London's airports in General
2.  London's Best and Worst Airports and Why
3.  London Heathrow Airport LHR

4.  London Gatwick Airport LGW
5.  London Stansted Airport STN
6.  London Luton Airport LTN
7.  London City Airport LCY

 

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Originally published 17 Apr 2009, last update 02 Jul 2017

You may freely reproduce or distribute this article for noncommercial purposes as long as you give credit to me as original writer.

 
 
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