London Stansted Vs London Luton – Which Low Cost Airport Is Best?

Some see it as a blessing, some see it as a curse. Whichever way you look at it, London has a lot of airports. We’ve previously looked at London Heathrow vs London Gatwick. Today we investigate London Stansted vs London Luton.

Stansted Airport Gatwick Heathrow
Stansted Airport is currently the fourth busiest airport in the UK. Photo: London Stansted Airport

While London Heathrow and London Gatwick primarily cater to full-service carriers, the story is different for Stansted and Luton. These airports are more geared towards low-cost traffic. At least, for their commercial passengers that is. More on the different VIP movements at the two airports slightly later on in the article.

Passenger traffic

Both Luton and Stansted airports handle a fairly large number of commercial flights. easyJet has its main hub at London Luton Airport. Meanwhile, less than 30 miles away, easyJet’s rival Ryanair has its main base. As a result of each having a low-cost carrier’s main hub, both airports have substantial traffic.

According to 2018 passenger traffic stats, London Stansted was the busier of the two by both passenger numbers, and even more so by aircraft movements. In fact, Stansted hosted just under 28 million passengers spread across just over 200,000 aircraft movements. By contrast, Luton handled a fraction under 17 million passengers spread across 136,511 aircraft movements.

Luton Airport
Luton airport handles fewer passengers. Photo: Luton Airport

Airport Access

So we’ve learned that when it comes to passenger traffic, Stansted Airport takes the biscuit by a fair distance. Let’s take a look next at accessing the airport.

London Stansted Airport is just off of the M11 motorway. This links London to Cambridge, providing easy access to cars from the cities. However, it is also just off of the A414. This links up to Hertfordshire and East Anglia providing easy access for even more. Additionally, Stansted Airport has a train station with Central London connections right below its entrance.

London Stansted Airport
London Stansted Airport has an on-site train station. Photo: Steve Bates/Stansted Airport

While London Luton Airport does have a dedicated train station it, unfortunately, is not on site. This means that upon arrival, passengers must take a further bus to reach the airport terminal. With regards to road access, things aren’t much better. The airport is a good three miles from the M1 motorway. However, all traffic to and from the airport has to go through a tunnel under a taxiway. This has two lanes in each direction.

Special traffic

Both airports handle their fair share of special aircraft traffic. In fact, London Luton is known for being a popular private jet destination. However, it would appear that once again, for special flights Stansted Airport takes the biscuit.

The Essex airport is one of the UK’s designated airports for dealing with threats, given its large open space far away from the terminal. As such, the airport played host to an unexpected Air India flight earlier this year. However, for this same reason, when the President Of The United States visits London, Air Force One uses Stansted Airport. In addition, due to its plentiful space, earlier this year the airport played host to Hi Fly’s Airbus A380 aircraft while operating a football charter flight.

Air Force One London Stansted Airport
Air Force One flies to Stansted when visiting London. Photo: London Stansted Airport


London Luton Airport is by no means a boring airport. After all, the popular United Kingdom television show “Airline” was filmed there. However, let’s not forget that “Come Fly With Me” was filmed in Stansted. Overall it seems that London Stansted wins the title of London’s best low-cost airport. This is due to it being busier, easier to access, and occasionally playing host to Air Force One.

Which London airport do you prefer? Let us know in the comments!