Stansted Airport celebrates terminal's 30th birthday

The Queen

The Queen opens the new terminal in March 1991 - Credit: Stansted Airport

Stansted is marking 30 years since its main terminal opened, transforming the original facility that started out as a wartime US air base into a major international airport.

Her Majesty The Queen opened the new £400m Lord Foster-designed terminal and airfield infrastructure on March 15, 1991.

Since then, nearly 460m passengers have passed through it on 3.95m flights.

In 2019, Stansted was the fourth busiest airport in the UK, serving 28m passengers a year.

Steve Griffiths, London Stansted’s Managing Director, said: “The airport has a long and proud history, and to be celebrating the 30th anniversary of our iconic terminal building, a building that has undoubtedly stood the test of time, is another great milestone on its journey.

“Stansted has helped create so many fantastic memories for our passengers and our highly valued colleagues over the years, 70 of whom have been with us since we welcomed the Queen all those years ago."

In 2018 Stansted was in the top 25 busiest airports in Europe, with 200 destinations across 40 countries.

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This compares to fewer than 50 routes and just over 1m passengers in 1991.  

However the Covid-19 pandemic has returned passenger numbers to 1994 levels.

Mr Griffiths said: “While the modern Stansted has been at the forefront of the revolution in air travel over past three decades, we currently face a crisis on a scale like never before.

"It is more important than ever that the Government’s Global Travel Taskforce acts quickly to establish a framework for the restart of international travel in May."

The main terminal

The main terminal building being constructed - Credit: Stansted Airport

In 2008 the airport opened a £50m extension to the arrivals area and recent years have seen an £11m upgrade to the Satellite One departures area, a new ‘shoreline’ check-in area and £60m baggage system.

The airport has also seen Ryanair expand its operations and welcomed airlines and Emirates.


A cake to mark the opening of the terminal building - Credit: Stansted Airport

Mr Griffiths added: “We can’t wait to welcome back our passengers to begin the next 30 years of Stansted’s story, and we are confident the airport has a very bright and successful future once people are able to start planning for their well-deserved summer getaways.”