Luton Airport History

Over the last few years London Luton Airport has become one of the UK�€�s fastest growing airports with passenger numbers increasing from 1.9 million in 1995 to 6.5 million in 2001. The huge growth can be attributed to the low cost airline phenomenon, as easyJet chose Luton Airport as its first UK airport.

London Luton Airport remains publicly owned by Luton Borough Council but is operated managed and developed by a private consortium, London Luton Airport Operations Ltd, for a period of 30 years.

A specialist airport management company, TBI plc, became the majority shareholder in London Luton Airport Operations Ltd in March 2001.

Like many UK airports London Luton Airport has a close association with the Airforce during World War II, London Luton Airport was officially opened on 16 July 1938.

During the war years, the London Luton Airport was a base for 264 Fighter Squadron. It was also an important manufacturing site at which the Percival Aircraft Company designed and built a series of aircraft for both civilian and military use.

Another key development in the History of London Luton Airport played an important role in the development of the inclusive tour holiday business in the UK during the 1950's and 1960's. A key event in the growth of charter traffic at Luton Airport took place in 1962 with the formation of a new charter airline called Euravia. At the end of 1964 Euravia changed its name to Britannia Airways. Now, Britannia is one of the world's largest charter airlines and is still based at the airport.

In 1978 a Government White Paper recognised Luton Airport as an integral part of the London airport system. The airport's committee began to prepare to take London Luton Airport into the 1990s and on to five million passengers per annum. As part of the development, a new international terminal building was opened by HRH The Prince of Wales in 1985, which is still in use today.

The next major event in Luton Airport's history came in 1986 when Monarch Airlines started scheduled flights to Spain and Irish airline Ryanair launched scheduled services from Luton to Ireland. This was the start of the growth of scheduled air services from London Luton Airport which have now become over 70 per cent of the business volume.

By 1990 the scheduled service traffic at London Luton Airport was growing substantially due largely to Ryanair. It was therefore a major blow to the airport when in 1991 Ryanair moved most of their business to the newly opened terminal at Stansted Airport. This caused another sharp decline in the number of passengers using london Luton Airport and put the business back into loss.

The road to recovery in passenger numbers at London Luton Airport was boosted by the start of Airtours flights from Luton. Also, two new low fare scheduled carriers, easyJet and Debonair, commenced operations from the airport. The increase in routes saw passenger numbers rise from 1.9 million in the financial year 1995/6 to 3.4 million passengers in 1997/8.

By 1998/9 the number of passengers using Luton Airport had increased to 4.4 million and London Luton Airport was the UK's fastest growing major airport according to Civil Aviation Authority statistics.

If London Luton Airport was to expand any further, additional financial investment had to be secured. This resulted in the signing of a unique private/public partnership in August 1998 which meant that the airport remains publicly owned by Luton Borough Council but is operated, managed and developed by a new private consortium for a period of 30 years.

As a result of the new financial backing, an £80 million development programme for Luton Airport was completed in Autumn 1999.

Also in November 1999, Railtrack opened the new £23 million London Luton Airport Parkway Station. Located on the Thameslink line, with the journey to central London taking less than 30 minutes, the new station will improve public transport access to the airport. A free shuttle bus will take passengers on the 1.8 km journey to the terminal.

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