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
An Introduction to London
Stansted is the second
newest of London's five airports. Age wise, the five
airports score :
1949 - 1954,
then from 1957 onwards
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
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
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
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
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
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
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 oppose extra runways at Gatwick and
Connecting between Terminals
This section is not
applicable for Stansted and its single terminal.
Connections into London
By road - car, bus, shuttle,
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
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.
There is no underground
service to Stansted.
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
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
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
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
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
National Express coaches travel between the two airports, once
or twice an hour, and take about 90 minutes for the journey.
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
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.
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
There are public showers in
both the international arrivals area and the departure lounge
(in the secure part of the airport).
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).
Stansted Official website
Stansted Express train service
National Express coach service
Part five of a seven part
series on London's airports - please
About London's airports in General
2. London's Best
and Worst Airports and Why
3. London Heathrow Airport LHR
London Gatwick Airport LGW
5. London Stansted Airport STN
London Luton Airport LTN
London City Airport LCY
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17 Apr 2009, last update
26 Jun 2019
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