Stansted airport is currently the fourth busiest in the country, although if the proposed development plans go ahead it is likely that this position will be improved. Any development is likely to include an expansion of accompanying services such as shops, car hire desks, and eateries as these are all an efficient method for Stansted Airport to earn extra revenue.
The expansion of the site however is not without its critics, as Stansted Airport sits in one of the most beautiful rural settings anywhere within the UK, local residents are understandably up in arms over these development plans. Currently the site handles around twenty million passengers annually, making it one of the major airports in Britain, but what is the history of the site, what has been involved in the development Stansted?
Stansted Airport takes its name from the nearby town of Stansted Mountfitchet, a sleepy Essex town that sits on the border with Hertfordshire. The site was earmarked for development at the outset of the Second World War although instead of a major RAF presence, the USAAF were the predominant force in building the site up. The engineers of the USAAF laid the runways and put in place a number of hangars. The purpose of the airfield was to house bombers of the 344th bombardment group.
As the home of the 344th, a squadron that utilised the massive B26 bomber a number of sorties were flown to sites on the continent including France, Germany and the Netherlands. Stansted played a particularly important role during the Normandy landings, bombing bridges and strategic positions behind the German lines to hold up their withdrawal. An action worthy of note was the role played by the 344th in restricting the German retreat through the Falaise Gap, a pivotal moment during the war.
Stansted airport especially benefited from the growth in budget air travel during the eighties and nineties due to the fact that the rates it offered airlines were cheaper than those at Heathrow or Gatwick. It is not however purely budget travel that is catered for at the site, in recent years the prestigious department store Harrods has started operating flights from Stansted; allowing passengers to charter a private jet to almost anywhere in the world.
This service is accompanied by the opportunity to utilise helicopter transfers from London as well as chauffeur driven car hire services. The Harrods operations however are only a small part of the operations of the site, with so many passengers passing through daily, a number of services offering coach travel, rail and car hire provisions have been built up to accommodate the needs of passengers heading out on an onward journey.
The road links that service Stansted Airport are fantastic, in the past few years a major link has been constructed to the M11 Motorway providing fast and efficient travel not only to London but to destinations all around the country. For those utilising car hire services however there is another option before jumping onto the motorway, this is to tour the wondrous countryside that surrounds the site. With a wealth of quant and picturesque villages and towns literally five minutes drive away; those who want to experience the real England will find an attractive travel proposition.
While the arguments over the expansion of the site may be continuing it is likely that Stansted will receive a second runway and will subsequently increase its passenger numbers. This can only be good for the auxiliary services such as car hire desks, restaurants and shops as revenues will subsequently increase. The history of the site is rich, in the coming years it is likely that this development will only continue.
Air travel expert Thomas Pretty looks at how car hire Stansted Airport services have been, and are likely to be integral to the site's development.