Blog: Planning for the future as long-haul comes to London Stansted
Following productive meetings in countries including China, Commercial Director Martin Jones looks at Stansted’s route development ambitions.
In January, I wrote about our plan to build on 2017’s successes with an even better 2018 for London Stansted Airport.
Despite it being only the start of March, we’ve already had the announcement of a new transatlantic route to Washington from Primera Air. We also just hosted a big event for the region’s travel trade to meet our airline partners, providing vital networking opportunities.
Looking to the East…
Excitingly, I recently returned from a trip to China with CEO Ken O’Toole and Aviation Director Mats Sigurdson which we hope will eventually lead on to more developments in the future.
Countries like the US and China are important for future growth of the airport, because the demand is there. We know many people from North and East London and the East of England travel to the US from other London airports – not because they prefer to but because the routes aren’t yet available from Stansted.
Primera Air was the first airline to appreciate the opportunities presented by this regional demand and have such confidence in their decision that they have added to their transatlantic route network even before the first flight has taken off.
With a rapidly growing combined population of 2.7 billion people in China and India, you can appreciate the opportunities this presents to airlines in those countries. From our conversations with them, we understand that London is top of the list when it comes to demand, and with other London airports reaching runway capacity, it provides London Stansted a huge opportunity.
Better connections to these countries will of course bring benefits to the region, from the chance to avoid M25 traffic to regional businesses being able to reduce travel costs while growing in new overseas markets. The better connected the region, the more businesses the area will attract, which benefits all economically.
Selling London Stansted
The obvious next steps for us are to try and form partnerships with airlines looking to make the most of this demand. But the process is not always quick, and can take months or even years with many, many meetings.
It is our job to ‘sell’ Stansted to these airlines, and we often must start by explaining where it is! This might seem strange when we are an airport with 26 million passengers, but having travelled in China you quickly start to realise how small the UK is in comparison. However, our prime location between London and Cambridge (which many know because of the university) means it isn’t difficult to explain the benefits of our location.
We are also working closely with regional businesses and people like Essex International – who have a long-standing relationship with Jiangsu Province for example – to build a coalition of support over the coming months to sell the case for a new route to China from the East… more on this in future blogs.
Location, location, location
Sadly, I can’t share any specific details of conversations that happened on the recent trip to China. However, we noticed the reputation of London Stansted is growing across the world, and the airlines we spoke to are very aware that Stansted offers an opportunity where other airports are full.
From a personal point of view, it was great to talk to one of the senior executives from an airline who shared his memories of his own visit to the East of England. It turns out his daughter went to the University of Cambridge. I asked him how he found the drive to another airport (which shall remain nameless) and his response was “traffic – very bad!”. I just smiled and pointed to how close Cambridge and London Stansted were on the map… let’s hope the message hit home!