LONDON — London-Stansted (STN) is one of those second-hand city airports where only a very few major carriers have based significant operations. In the case of STN, it could be said that Ryanair, the Ultra-Low-Cost Carrier (ULCC), is the airline that currently dominates the airport’s schedules.

However, by looking at nearly the past 12 months of achievements and expansions that the airport has been subjected to, as well as looking at what is in store for, STN is rapidly becoming a rapidly-growing airport of potential.

Current Portfolio

Ryanair’s EI-DCL, in the Dreamliner livery, departing Runway 22 at London Stansted. Picture from Thomas Saunders.

With Ryanair being the airport’s number-one operator, it would be easy to assume that not many others fly into STN. However, this is the current airline lineup and all their destinations out of the airport:

Carrier Destinations
Air Moldova Chisinau
Arkia Tel-Aviv Ben Gurion
AtlasGlobal Istanbul-Ataturk
Aurigny Guernsey
Austrian Airlines Innsbruck
BH Air Burgas
BMI Regional Derry
British Airways Berlin-Tegel, Faro, Malaga, Milan-Linate, Chambery, Florence, Ibiza, Nice, Palma Di Mallorca
Cobalt Air Larnaca
easyJet Amsterdam, Asturias, Belfast, Bilbao, Cagliari, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Ljubliana, Malaga, Munich, Naples, Nice, Palma De Mallorca, Bodrum, Dalaman, Dubrovnik, Geneva, Grenoble, Ibiza, Menorca, Reykjavik-Keflavik, Sofia, Split, Zakynthos
Eurowings Cologne/Bonn, Hannover, Munich, Salzburg, Stuttgart, Vienna
Flybe Newquay
Jet2 Alicante, Faro, Fuerteventura, Funchal, Gran Canaria, Lanzarote, Malaga, Paphos, Tenerife-South, Antalya, Corfu, Dalaman, Dubrovnik, Geneva, Girona, Grenoble, Heraklion, Ibiza, Kos, Larnaca, Lyon, Menorca, Palma De Mallorca, Pula, Reus, Rhodes, Salzburg, Split, Zakynthos
Loganair Dundee
Pegasus Airlines Istanbul-Sabiha Gokcen, Izmir, Bodrum
Ryanair Aalborg, Aarhus, Agadir, Alicante, Ancona, Athens, Barcelona, Bari, Basel, Bergamo, Bergerac, Berlin, Biarritz, Billund, Bologna, Bordeaux, Bratislava, Bremen, Brindisi, Brno, Bucharest, Budapest, Bydogoszcz, Cagliari, Carcassonne, Castellon, Cologne/Bonn, Copenhagen, Cork, Dinard, Dortmund, Dublin, Eindhoven, Faro, Fez, Frankfurt, Fuerteventura, Gdansk, Genoa, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Gothenburg, Gran Canaria, Grenoble, Hahn, Hamburg, Jerez de la Frontera, Karlsruhe Baden-Baden, Katowice, Kaunas, Kerry, Knock, Krakow, La Rochelle, Lamezia Terme, Lanzarote, Leipzig, Limoges, Nice, Nuremberg, Olsztyn, Oradea, Oslo-Gardermoen, Ostrava, Palanga, Palermo, Palma De Mallorca, Paphos, Pardubice, Perugia, Pescara, Pisa, Santander, Santiago de Compostela, Seville, Shannon, Sofia, Stockholm-Skavsta, Stockholm-Vasteras, Strasbourg, Szczecin, Talinn, Tenerife-South, Thessaloniki, Timisoara, Toulouse, Tours, Treviso, Trieste, Turin, Valencia, Verona, Vilnius, Warsaw-Modlin, Weeze, Wroclaw, Zaragoza, Alghero, Almeria, Beziers, Brive, Chania, Clermont-Ferrand, Comiso, Corfu, Deauville, Girona, Ibiza, Kefalonia, Nimes, Perpignan, Pula, Rhodes, Zadar
Thomas Cook Airlines Fuerteventura, Lanzarote, Tenerife-South, Alicante, Antalya, Cancun, Corfu, Dalaman, Gran Canaria, Ibiza, Kefalonia, Kos, Las Vegas, Menorca, Orlando-International, Palma De Mallorca, Reus, Rhodes, Skiathos, Zakynthos
Titan Airways Calvi, Chambery, Tarbes/Lourdes, Zadar
TUI Airways Fuerteventura, Gran Canaria, Tenerife-South, Antalya, Corfu, Dalaman, Faro, Heraklion, Ibiza, Kefalonia, Kos, Lanzarote, Larnaca, Menorca, Palma de Mallorca, Paphos, Rhodes, Zakynthos, Geneva, Innsbruck, Salzburg, Turin

As demonstrated above, various carriers already operate to London-Stansted, which makes it quite a significant airport in itself.

With the overcrowding of London-Heathrow (LHR) and London-Gatwick (LGW), airlines are starting to realize that STN is the next ‘big solution’ to deal with the capacity problems while expansion will be undergoing over the next ten to fifteen years.

A carrier that used to be there was Air Mediterranean, which previously started operations to STN from Athens (ATH) back last year.

Although this is a connection that STN has lost, looking at future operations for 2018, it will not affect the airport exceedingly.

And for once, it is exemplified that Stansted appears to be a unique airport concerning its operations as it is directly on-par with its sister airport, Manchester (MAN), with the wide variety of carriers and destinations.

Commenting on 2017 growth was Commercial Director of London-Stansted, Martin Jones, who said, “As we begin a brand new year, I’d like to reflect on the past 12 months and the successes London-Stansted Airport has enjoyed in 2017.”

“Last year was arguably the most successful year under MAG ownership in terms of airline development, with the launches of several new carriers including, Air Mediterranean and BMI regional.”

Going into 2018

Titan Airways Boeing 767 departing Runway 22 at London Stansted. Picture from Thomas Saunders.

However, Stansted’s current portfolio shows that they have a lot of bases covered, although there is a lack of the Middle East and Asian investment on the commercial level.

With Emirates (EK) launching services to STN in the Summer, nevertheless, things might change for the good.

Concerning European growth, it seems to be thriving. Below are the carriers that are either launching services to Stansted or are adding new routes from the airport.

Carrier Destinations
Air Corsica Ajaccio, Bastia, Figari – Beginning in May and June 2018
Emirates Dubai-International – Beginning in June 2018 Almeria, Bodrum, Kefalonia, Malta, Naples, Nice, Thessaloniki, Verona – Beginning in Between March and May 2018
Primera Air Alicante, Boston, Malaga, Newark, Toronto, Washington, Chania, Palma De Mallorca – Beginning between April and August 2018
Ryanair Belfast-International – Beginning March 2018
Thomas Cook Airlines Enfidha – Beginning May 2018
TUI Airways Burgas – Beginning May 2018
Wideroe Kristiansand – Beginning August 2018
WOW Air Reykjavik-Keflavik – Beginning April 2018

So as we can see from both tables, the airport most definitely has North-American transatlantic flights nailed to a tee, with a wide variety of carriers offering either direct flights to the US or flights with a stop-over, like with WOW Air through its base in Iceland.

With an airport like STN teeing to that with Manchester Airport in carrying over 25 million passengers annually, the significant addition of flights shows that the growth within STN is continuous and does not show any signs of slowing down anytime soon.

Regarding the Middle Eastern growth that is emerging out of Stansted, it is showing that the demand for destinations such as Dubai (DXB) is still in high demand.

With over ten daily services from LGW and LHR combined, the addition of STN flights to Dubai gives passengers more flexibility in the catchment area, especially those who do not want to travel all the way to Gatwick and Heathrow, appealing those in the Cambridge and Essex areas.

CEO Ken O’Toole also gave a little insight into what 2018 should be like for the airport. “In 2018, our aim is to continue growing our passenger numbers and provide even more choice, so we were absolutely delighted to announce just before Christmas that Emirates will begin operating a new service to Dubai from Stansted in June,” he said.

“This excellent addition to our route network comes on top of the very exciting news that Primera Air will also launch direct flights to New York, Boston, and Toronto from April and May this year,” he added.

Coping with Growth – Stansted’s Transformation Project

PHOTO: Stansted Airport.

Due to the excessive levels of demand that the airport is receiving, STN has been putting in place a transformation plan where the first phase is set to get underway this year.

Currently, STN only has a single terminal—the busiest of its kind in the UK, and the fourth busiest overall.

Stansted believes that they have spare capacity to serve up to 35 million passengers per year before they are at 100% capacity. In 2015, the airport set out a vision of how Stansted will adapt their single-runway airport model.

This investment is going to cost around £130 million and should take about three years to be completed. This new venture will increase the overall capacity of the airport from 35 million passengers to 43 million per year.

With planning permission received in April 2017, they hope to get the work done by 2022 at the latest, which will feature a new arrivals building. They believe, according to their website, that it will provide the following benefits:

  • The 34,000m2 facility includes plans for larger immigration, baggage reclaim areas, and new retail facilities.
  • A public forecourt, with easy access to onward travel options, will create a relaxing and welcoming environment for passengers.
  • The building will incorporate the latest sustainable building technologies while respecting the current terminal’s renowned Lord Foster architecture.
  • Building a stand-alone arrivals facility will minimize disruption to our passengers during the construction.
  • In time, the current terminal building will become a dedicated departures facility, creating more space at check-in, security and in the international departures lounge.
  • These changes will create additional choice for our passengers and airlines.

This project must be completed rapidly, especially now that any expansion projects for LHR are expected to take much longer than that of STN, and traffic demand into the London area is on the rise.

In 2008, STN had been set as the London airport to get the second runway. However, after BAA dropped their plans in 2010 for LHR instead, it would have changed the way Stansted wanted to expand itself while under a single-runway system like the one at Gatwick.


FedEx MD-11F touching down at London Stansted. Picture from Thomas Saunders.

Cargo is another big thing that makes Stansted so unique as well. Like with East Midlands Airport (EMA) as a competitor, there are a lot of scheduled carriers that operate from the field and that are based there as well.

2016 saw STN transport over 220,000 tonnes of freight and has consistently gone up since 2012.

Below is a list of the carriers that operate on a far more international scope compared to that of the commercial airlines:

Carrier Destinations
Asiana Cargo Milan-Malpensa, Moscow-Domodedovo, Seoul-Incheon
ASL Airlines Belgium Liege
Astral Aviation Nairobi-Jomo Kenyatta
Cargologicair Atlanta, Mexico City
Cargolux Hong-Kong, Luxembourg
Cargolux Italia Milan-Malpensa
China Southern Cargo Guangzhou, Frankfurt
Etihad Cargo Abu Dhabi, Amsterdam, Nairobi Jomo-Kenyatta
FedEx Express Cologne, Dublin, East Midlands, Indianapolis, Memphis, Paris CDG
FedEx Feeder Amsterdam, Glasgow, Manchester
Martinair Amsterdam, Bogota, Miami
Panalpina Huntsville, Luxembourg, Guadalajara
Qatar Airways Cargo Basel, Brussels, Doha, Frankfurt
Royal Mail Belfast-International, Edinburgh, Exeter, Guernsey, Jersey, Newcastle Upon Tyne
Turkish Airlines Cargo Amsterdam, Istanbul-Ataturk
UPS Airlines Cologne, Newark, Philadelphia

It could be argued that the reasoning for the lack of commercial connectivity across the Middle East and Asia is due to the extensive cargo network out of STN.

Due to most of that demand being taken up by London-Heathrow and Gatwick, by some carriers like Cathay Pacific, Japan Airlines, and China Southern, STN will have to look elsewhere.

Looking away from Asia and the Middle East, the cargo perspective is well covered on a global scale, primarily by FedEx and UPS, who go to many of the cargo industry’s most significant hubs, which brings in the revenues that the airport needs to ensure that growth can continue.

Another benefit to Stansted’s cargo operation is that there is barely any competition amongst the routes the carriers operate to and from.

There is currently no news into whether any other cargo carriers are going to dip their feet into competition with the unique variety of operators that fly from Stansted.

But currently, Stansted is pretty set on the cargo perspective and will most likely be forecasted further growth in the cargo market going into 2018/19 onwards.


TUI Airways Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner departing Runway 22 at London Stansted. Picture from Thomas Saunders.

The London-Stansted airport is forecasted for significant levels of growth in both the passenger and in the cargo fronts.

With such a unique portfolio in both sectors, this is an airport that will stand out from the rest post-Heathrow expansion and will be up there with Gatwick in terms of the busiest single-runway operated airports in the UK, and maybe in the globe, too.

As their passenger portfolio begins to develop more away from the European side but more into the American and Middle-Eastern markets, it will be interesting to see whether other carriers will step up to the plate and take advantage of the capacity that Stansted is offering, especially in their transformation plans as well.

But for now, Stansted look to be in a very safe place and going into a post-BREXIT environment, the airport will want to seek the strongest connections that they can by either maintaining current route options or by creating new links across the globe.