Stansted airport is currently regarded as the UK's fourth largest. It is one of the three major airports that service the needs of London and the south although Luton can also be regarded as a London airport. This is most likely to change should the proposed plans of the Stansted site go ahead; a course of action that has raised much controversy with local residents. Today the Stansted airport terminals and satellite buildings contain a great deal of shops, bars, restaurants and car hire desks to give passengers a better service. The majority of flights that leave Stansted head to low cost destinations in Europe although further afield destinations are available.
In terms of passenger number the airport handles around twenty million annually, while this is small compared to Heathrow's seventy million, it is still considerable enough to be regarded a major airport. The origins of this site however do not lay with the commercial sphere, the abundance of shops, restaurants and car hire desks are far removed from the original functionality of the site.
The airport was named after the close by town of Stansted Mountfitchet. It was built in 1942 by the United States Air Force. A number of sorties were flown from the site by the 344th bombardment group to destinations all over occupied Europe including France, the Netherlands and Belgium. This squadron were particularly useful during the Normandy landings bombing site on the coast to allow the troops an easier advance. During this campaign members of the 344th were especially important in reducing the ability of German forces to retreat through the Falaise Gap. It was a combination of military engineers and air force personnel who built the original bunkers and buildings, some of which are still visible today at the furthest extremities of the site.
The reason so many European destination are reachable from Stansted can be attributed to the rise of the low cost flyer. These companies have managed to create a niche in the air travel industry by flying to minor airports that are usually a short trip from the destination city. This has given many car hire companies the opportunity to align themselves with these airlines and provide customers with hire services once they land at minor airports. It is not all budget however at Stansted, the highly reputable department store Harrods runs a flying service from Stansted that either flies private passengers to destinations worldwide or ships in specific goods for the most demanding of customers.
The Uttlesford region in which Stansted lays gives travellers the perfect opportunity to see one of the most unspoilt and beautiful parts of England. This is the reason why so many local residents vehemently reject the plans of Stansted's executives for expansion and a second runway. The reasons behind this standpoint range from the destruction of listed buildings, the development of protected countryside and the negative effects on the environment and local way of life through noise and pollution.
Whatever does happen to Stansted airport it is sure that services such as car hire, chauffeuring, fine dining and drinking will continue to grow at the site. The executives of the airport realise that allowing companies retail space within the terminal and satellites is a profitable venture for both parties. For the site to fund its expansion it will need to increase the amount of terminal floor space given up to retailers. Whether the plans go ahead is still undecided but as a major airport that is attempting to increase its standing in the UK's listings, it is likely that they will grow in order to provide London with yet another major air transportation link.
Air travel expert Thomas Pretty looks at how car hire Stansted airport services are likely to be integral to the site's future development.