The first ever scheduled flights to India from London Stansted Airport took off on October 31st and will be the only direct service between a London airport and Amritsar. It marks the beginning of a direct service between Essex and India for the first time. The announcement followed the addition of a second daily Emirates flight earlier in the year between London Stansted and Dubai, with the airport also eyeing a number of further long-haul additions in the near future.

The service will be operated by state-of-the-art Boeing 787 Dreamliners, offering business and economy classes. It will also provide connecting flights between Amritsar and Mumbai.

Extract from The Times article with London Stansted Airport CEO Ken O’Toole

London Stansted Airport is owned by MAG (Manchester Airports Group). Its Chief Executive, Ken O’Toole, was transferred to repeat the job he had done at Manchester, building up its infrastructure to an airport handling 28 million passengers a year with more than a dozen long-haul airlines. Stansted is already handling over 28 million passengers and with a passenger increase of 6.3% this year, Stansted is on track to become the third busiest airport in Britain.

Now, Stansted is adding full-service intercontinental airlines to its line-up of low-cost, short-haul operators. Air India’s launch of a service to Amritsar doubles Stansted’s long-haul offering. Currently, the only other route is with Emirates to Dubai. That twice-daily service is proving so popular that, it is said, it is only a matter of time before Etihad and Qatar Airways open at the airport. And more may follow. Jetblue may choose Stansted when it launches cut-price transatlantic services in 2021. China, too, could open up to Essex if Cathay Pacific and Hainan so decide.

Stansted is aiming to add value by developing new technology to enable long-haul operators to connect and liaise with short-haul operators — without the need for “interlining” agreements. That would mean overseas visitors being able to fly to the rest of Europe via Stansted and European travellers making connections to other continents through the hub. (Mr O’Toole is adamant that he has a flurry of announcements to make over the next few months.)

“The history of Stansted is intertwined with the development of the low-cost aviation revolution. When MAG bought it in 2013, we saw Stansted as a great opportunity . . . an airport with spare capacity servicing a very affluent and growing catchment in a London environment where capacity was constrained.”

Heathrow and Gatwick are fully congested and, effectively, cannot take any new carriers, leaving Stansted as the airport best placed to welcome new long-haul operators. The reason Stansted has not done this before goes back to its historical ownership alongside Heathrow and Gatwick under the privatised British Airports Authority, where according to Mr O’Toole: “Under BAA, the London aviation market was segregated” so that Stansted handled low-cost carriers.

Since the break-up of the BAA monopoly, the Stansted proposition has changed. In the past 15 years, “we’ve had the Olympics and the investment in east London, the London-Cambridge corridor rich in the technology, biosciences and financial sectors.” That Emirates went from once-daily services to Dubai, its gateway to the east, to twice daily in less than a year “shows how much pent-up demand exists – which didn’t exist in the region 15 years ago”.

Stansted’s forecasts reckon that between now and not long after 2030 its annual passenger numbers will rise from 28 million to 43 million. Its passenger numbers flying long-haul are negligible at present, but by the 2030s it could be as many as seven million, or one in six of all travellers.

London Stansted Airport’s international connectivity

London Stansted Airport, at the heart of the London-Cambridge corridor, is crucial for the success of businesses in the East of England region – particularly so for Essex. Its location means that the airport is advantageously positioned for business travellers. It’s seen as a core transport hub with unparalleled access to the M11 corridor, a reach of 17 million people within 2 hours and 1.2 million within 30 minutes.

London Stansted Airport is ideally placed to provide global connectivity to the world-leading research institutions, including the life sciences businesses located along the London-Stansted-Cambridge corridor. The life sciences sector is heavily reliant on airport facilities, with the speed of air freight delivery crucial for ‘just-in-time’ and high value goods, such as pharmaceuticals.