History of Luton Airport
Luton airport is one of the country’s fastest growing airports
in the country under-pinned by the equally rapid growth of easyjet.
Passengers in the year 2001 had risen to 6.5 million and along
with Heathrow airport, Stansted airport and Gatwick airport form
the hub of airports serving London and the south of the country.
Luton Airport started operations in 1938 and was originally owned
by the Borough Luton airport. During the war years the airport
was home to 264 Fighter Squadron and became an important site for
the manufacture of both civilian and military aircraft by the Percival
After the war the airport was developed for civilian transport
with the 60’s being the start of affordable holidays. Britannia
Airways was formed in 1962 and is now one of the largest charter
airlines in the world and is still based in Luton. Another well
known charter airline Monarch also decided to base itself at Luton
and by 1972 20% of all holiday flights were coming out of Luton
airport making it the most profitable airport in the country. Unfortunately,
the airport suffered a major set back when the tour operator Clarksons
went into liquidation along with its airline Court Line.
In 1978 the Government recognized that Luton airport had a part
to play in meeting the ever increasing demands placed on Heathrow
airport, Gatwick airport and Stansted airport and in 1985 a new
international terminal was completed. Rynair joined monarch in
1986 in developing more schedule flights to Spain and Ireland.
In 1987 London Luton Airport Ltd was born with the local borough
the sole shareholder. A further set back arose in 1991 when Ryanair, which was fast growing,
moved the hub of its operations to Stansted airport turning a profit
into a loss. To reverse this decline in numbers a commercial management
team was put in place with the local borough taking a back seat.
No less than 30 million was invested in the infrastructure upgrading
facilities for operators and the general public. This led to
Airtours using the airport with a further boost in 1997/1998
by the establishment
of the low cost flyer easyjet. The airport enjoyed rapid growth
during this period in traffic numbers rising to 4.4m by 1998.
However, in 1998 to expand further stronger long -term finances
were required and the council agreed a 30-year partnership
with a private consortium to manage the business.
This was superceded in March 2001 when TBI plc became the major
shareholder 71.4% with Betchel Enterprises Luton UK Ltd the