Perhaps the most popular landmark in all of Luton is the London Luton Airport, currently the fourth largest airport in London behind Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted.
Previously known as Luton International Airport, the London Luton Airport is the sixth busiest airport in the United Kingdom in terms of passenger traffic. It is also the UK’s fastest growing airport, with the total number of passengers rising by 21.5% in 2005.
Based on the latest available figures, total annual passengers at the London Luton Airport have been pegged at 9.41 million passengers in 2006, compared to 9.13 million passengers in 2005 and 7.52 million in 2004.
The airport’s single runway stretches to 2,160 metres long. An Instrument Landing System supports all operations and allows the airport to operate even under poor visibility conditions.
The terminal boasts of a wide array of bars, restaurants and shops as well as 60 check-in desks, baggage and flight information systems. Its first floor has a floor area of 9000 sq ft and features a spectacular vaulted ceiling.
Among the airlines that operate domestic and international services to and from London Luton Airport are Aer Arann, easyJet, Monarch Airlines, Ryanair, Silverjet, flyThomasCook.com, Thomsonfly, Wizz Air and XL Airways.
The London Luton Airport traces its history back to July 1938 when it first began operations as a base for the Royal Air Force during World War II. When the war concluded, control of the airport was transferred to the local council, which then paved the way for commercial operations.
The year 1972 was a banner year as the London Luton Airport earned the distinction of being the most profitable airport in the United Kingdom. The next 15 years saw a series of major redevelopments, culminating with the inauguration of a new international terminal in 1985.
In 1990, the airport officially adopted the name London Luton Airport in order to increase its business with London-bound foreign visitors.
The airport changed hands in 1997 when a consortium known as London Luton Airport Operations Limited and headed by Barclays Bank sealed a 30 year management contract for the airport with the local council. In 1998, a long-term development program was started at the airport which would ultimately cost £80 million.
In 1997, the local council entered into a 30-year management contract for the airport with Barclays Bank, which headed the consortium and would later sell to TBI plc. The new aluminium and glass terminal, nicknamed “The Tinshed” and costing £40 million, would begin operations.
The airport would once again change ownership in January 2005 when Airport Concessions Development Limited acquired London Luton Airport Operations Limited.
In the past, charter passenger services comprised the bulk of all main traffic through London Luton Airport, easily dwarfing scheduled passenger services. Today, however, the activity of scheduled passenger services has grown tremendously. While its charter flights are still at a significant number, the airport has become a major hub for a number of low-cost carriers which have scheduled services to many part of Europe.
Moreover, the activity of business jets in the airport has also risen, as reflected by the presence of the executive aviation base of Harrods Aviation, which is connected to the group behind London’s Harrods department store. The base is used mainly by cargo airlines.
Shortly after the Silverjet airline began operations in 2004, revealed its plan to operate a private terminal facility that will use London Luton Airport as its base. The airline now has daily from the London Luton Airport to Newark Liberty International Airport in New York.
The Silverjet terminal is capable of handling over 100 passengers. They have a meet and greet service that has earned high praise from passengers. Here, a concierge meets the passengers upon their arrival, takes their baggage, escorts the passengers through security and brings them to the lounge where they can relax, shop or surf the Internet while waiting for the departure of their plane. Before boarding, a staff members goes to each customer to check their passport and tickets. The entire process takes only about 30 minutes but has created heaps of goodwill for the company.
The Silverjet terminal is located at the old Main Terminal and makes use of the old Departure Lounge Area. Both facilities have been completely refurbished by Silverjet.