London Luton Airport (previously called Luton International Airport) is an airport about 30 miles north of London in the town of Luton , Bedfordshire. It is the fourth largest airport serving the London market after Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted handling approximately 9 million passengers per year.
An airport was first opened on the site on the 16th of July, 1938 by then Secretary of State for Air Kingsley Wood. During the Second World War London Luton Airport was used as a base for RAF fighters.
Following the war the land was returned to the local council who continued activity at London Luton Airport as a commercial operation, providing the base for major tour operators. In 1972, London Luton Airport was the most profitable in the country. London Luton Airport suffered a severe setback in August 1974 when a major package tour operator Clarkson’s, scheduling flights via its airline Court Line(which also operated local bus services), went bankrupt.
The next fifteen years saw a process of rebuilding, including the opening of a new international terminal in 1985. At this time Ryan Air flew flights from London Luton Airport to Ireland . In 1990 the airport was renamed ” London Luton Airport ” in order to boost the profile of the airport in the eyes of foreign visitors, likely to be heading to London but not re ali sing Luton was close. In 1991, Ryanair transferred its base of operations to Stansted, again resulting in the decline in the airport’s importance in the British transport network. This trend was dramatically reversed later in the 90s with the introduction of charter flights for Airtours and new ‘low cost’ scheduled flights from Debonair and easyJet, the latter making Luton its hub.
Today, the London Luton Airport remains in municipal ownership, owned by Luton Borough Council in August 1997, in order 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 (LLOAL), which was headed by Barclays Bank. Barclays later sold to TBI plc. In January 2005, LLAOL was acquired by Airport Concessions Development Limited, a company owned by Abertis (90%) and Aena Internacional (10%) – both of Spain . Abertis is one of Europe ’s leading infrastructure providers. Aena Internacional is the international business arm of Aena, the Spanish national airport and air traffic control organisation which owns and operates 47 airports across the Iberian Peninsula . Some 155 million passengers per annum use its airports. Aena also has operations in Central and South America . LLAOL can now rely on additional operational experience and financial support when developing future plans.
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, which HM the Queen and HRH the Duke of Edinburgh officially opened in November 1999. The building is nicknamed “The Tinshed” by locals.
The terminal houses 60 check-in desks, “state of the art” baggage and flight information systems and a wide range of shops, restaurants and bars. In the original design brief for the 1999 Terminal, a 9000 sq ft 1st floor area – which features a spectacular vaulted ceiling originally conceived by Sir Norman Foster; was built but intended to lie fallow until required for a development of this type.
In September 2004, development work started on a major project to transfer departures from the International Terminal Building built in 1985, to the 9000 sq ft first floor of the 1999 Terminal Building . The new departure hall opened on schedule on 1st July 2005 and features extensive ‘new build’ in the form of the new Boarding Pier extending 190 metres out between the London Luton Airport’s North & East Aprons and relocated Security, Customs and Immigration facilities. It also encompasses the development and remodelling of the entire 1st floor of the so-far unused 1st Floor of the 1999 Terminal. In 2005, total passengers at London Luton Airport increased by 21.5% to 9.135 million, making it the UK ‘s sixth busiest airport. London Luton Airport is also the fastest growing UK airport
A indicator of the importance of London Luton Airport to the economy of Luton is that the town has the highest number of taxi cabs per head of population in the United Kingdom . London Luton Airport has become even more critical to the future of Luton given the recent closure of the Vauxhall car factory.
A new railway station, Luton Airport Parkway , has been built to serve the airport and provides services to London ‘s St. Pancras and to the north on the Midland Main Line, and also on First Capital Connect routes north to Bedford and south to St. Albans , London , Wimbledon , Sutton, Gatwick Airport and Brighton .
A free shuttle bus connects to London Luton Airport. The station is just over a mile from the airport terminal buildings, and passengers who incorrectly believe the station is within the airport should instead allow extra time. There are plans to replace the Luton Airport Express Shuttle Bus from Luton Airport Parkway Station with a segregated tracked transit system in the near future to further improve public transport links to London Luton Airport.
In 2004 London Luton Airport management announced that they supported the government plans to expand the facilities to include a full-length runway, either on the current ali gnment, slightly south on the same ali gnment or at an angle to the present runway. Local campaign groups including LADACAN and SLAP are opposed to the new expansion plans. The expansion plans would result in the destruction of Someries Castle , a scheduled ancient monument.