How Stansted Airport Could Compete with Heathrow And Gatwick

The London area currently has six airports serving it. This consists of two large airports, Heathrow and Gatwick, and two low-cost hubs, Stansted and Luton. Finally, there are two smaller airports, Southend and City. It’s not beyond possibility that, with expansion, Stansted could one-day rival the two London giants.

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

London’s aviation history goes back almost 100 years, to when the first scheduled flight flew from London to Paris. Stansted’s roots go back to World War II, when the field was used an American air base. Now the airport is the fourth busiest in the country, just behind Manchester which happens to be owned by the same company.

Expansion

A few years back, Stansted was eyeing huge expansion. This would’ve seen a second runway built in addition to a brand new terminal. However, according to current “transformation” plans, a much smaller expansion is being tackled.

Rather than a whole new terminal, Stansted is building a smaller arrivals terminal to the north of the existing terminal.

Stansted Airport Expansion Heathrow Gatwick
The airport is looking to open a new arrivals terminal in 2020. Photo: Stansted Airport

With the exception of a daily Boeing 777 flight operated by Emirates and the odd football charter, Stansted is fundamentally a low-cost airport. By targeting the terminal at low-cost passengers, Stansted may well be discouraging full-service airlines.

Take Heathrow’s Terminal 5 as an example. Upon passing security, you are deposited directly into the departure lounge. You can choose to visit restaurants and shops, or you can choose to go straight to the gate.

This choice is stripped from passengers at Stansted Airport, as they are forced to walk past almost every shop in a big S shape in order to reach the gates. One could argue that this would be a huge turn off to full-service carriers, who look to make passenger experience as stress-free as possible.

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London connections

An additional factor to consider is the connection time to London. Again, with passenger experience in mind, London Stansted doesn’t make sense for full-service carriers. Take JetBlue’s upcoming London service. While a London airport is yet to be announced, previous reports suggested that the carrier was eying London Heathrow.

Stansted Airport Heathrow Gatwick
The Stansted Express has an average journey time of 47 minutes. Photo: Stansted Airport

Assuming that the majority of JetBlue’s London passengers will be visiting London, the carrier will be looking at London connections with a key eye. While Heathrow’s quickest connection is just 15 minutes from the terminal to a central London station, Stansted can only boast an average time of 47 minutes. Taking a moment to put yourself in a passenger’s shoes; would you rather a 15 minute train or a 45 minute train to your hotel after a seven-hour flight across time zones?

While Stansted has some huge potential, it looks like for now the airport will remain a low-cost hub.

Do you think Stansted has a chance of competing against Heathrow and Gatwick? Let us know in the comments.

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Paul Spindler

From Terminal 5 Heathrow its 20 mins to Paddington, Stansted is 45 mins to Liverpool street so actually to the business part of the city it’s the same time ( until cross rail happens).

If a carrier came in with sufficient capacity to take over 50% of a satellite it might work, perhaps a Virgin type airline. A321XLR anyone ?