Can London Stansted Really Get Long Haul Flights?

London Stansted Airport has traditionally been one of London’s low-cost airports in addition to London Luton. The airport acts as the main hub of Irish low-cost airline Ryanair. As times change, however, the airline is looking to join Heathrow and Gatwick as one of the big players in the Long Haul market.

While London Stansted airport may not seem like the obvious place to operate long-haul flights from, it could achieve this goal quite well. The airport, which is located some 40 miles from the centre of London, has a fair bit of capacity to spare. The airport can even handle the giants of the aviation industry such as the A380 and the AN-225. A side note that is important to consider is that the A380 can only use the cargo apron, so don’t expect to see a regular one any time soon. The airport also acts as one of the designated hijack airports for the UK, in addition to hosting high profile guests such as Air Force One.

London Stansted
Stansted Airport is looking to gain 25 new long-haul routes in the next 5 years. Photo: Stansted Airport

Global Expansion

Just this week representatives from Manchester Airport Group, owners of Stansted Airport attended the World Routes conference in China. This global conference is also where China Southern announced plans to expand its fleet by over 1000 in the next 17 years. The airport announced that it plans to launch direct services to at least 25 new long-haul destinations in the next 5 years. This includes flights to the likes of Los Angeles, Shanghai, Vancouver, and Manila.


London Stansted is currently the origin of a few long-haul flights. Over the summer, Emirates launched a direct flight to Dubai operated by B777 aircraft. In addition, Primera Air uses the airport as the main origin of their transatlantic flights in addition to Paris. From London Stansted Primera currently flies to Newark in New York, Boston, and Washington.

London Stansted Airport
Primera Air launched flights to Washington in late August. Photo: Stansted Airport

50% of London Passenger Growth

Speaking about the future of Stansted, the airport’s CEO Ken O’Toole said “Over the next decade, runway capacity in the south-east will be at a premium and Stansted will be responsible for delivering up to 50 per cent of London’s expected passenger growth … It’s imperative we continue to develop our route network by unlocking our spare runway capacity”.

He added “we know that over 400,000 people are currently travelling from the London Stansted catchment area to Hong Kong each year. We need to demonstrate this strength of demand to airlines who are not currently serving Stansted.”

London Stansted Airport
Ken O’Toole, Stansted Airport CEO, helps launch Emirates flights to Dubai. Photo: Stansted Airport

50 Minutes From London

It currently takes around 50 minutes to get between London and Stansted by train and 1 hour 50 by bus. It takes around 55 minutes to get to Heathrow airport from Central London on the Piccadilly Line. This is a fairly popular way of getting to and from the airport for many long-haul passengers. Many critics of the airport highlight how far it is from London, however, with this in mind the location of Stansted appears fairly irrelevant.

London Stansted Airport
Following £600m of investment Stansted Airport will open a new arrivals terminal in 2020. Photo: Steve Bates/Stansted Airport

While Stansted still has the image of a smaller secondary airport, it definitely has the potential to become one of London’s primary airports. Airport space and slots are at a premium in the South of England. Slots for Heathrow airport cost as much as £26.1m, while also being few and far between. Unless the proposed third runway at Heathrow actually gets built, Stansted with plenty of land around it could be the answer to the UK’s capacity problems.

What do you think of Stansted’s ambitions? Would you take a long haul flight from Stansted? Let us know below!