Private jet set cannot queue for the M1, says Luton airport

Jonathan Prynn, Consumer Business Editor
31 Oct 2011

Luton Airport, where hundreds of stars will arrive by private jet during the Olympics, is racing to finish a “VIP motorway” to prevent tailbacks of limousines on the road to the M1.

The airport’s Spanish owner Abertis is spending £4 million on road widening at a bottle-neck where queues of traffic stretch for up to half a mile on busy summer mornings.

Managing director Glyn Jones said about 6,000 private jets are expected to land and take off from the airport – officially named London Luton – during the six weeks of the Olympics and Paralympic Games.

He said: “These are people who are really interested in seeing the events but can arrange their own transport. The last thing they want is to have any issue getting in and out of the airport. We simply can’t have a queue on this side of the roundabout as well as the other side.”

Many of the wealthy passengers who use Luton – including Roman Abramovich, Kylie Minogue and the England football team – use helicopters for the last leg of their journeys.

However, during the Olympics, London air space will be closed to helicopters and celebrities will be forced to travel by land. Few are expected to take the option of a shuttle bus to the station and the 20-minute train journey to St Pancras International.

The airport lodged planning application for the road widening with Luton council last week and hopes to have it finished by mid-June, little more than a month before the Games start.

The wider road marks the first phase of a programme to overhaul the image of London’s “Cinderella airport”, which still suffers from Lorraine Chase’s cockney reference to “Lut’n Airpor” in an advertising campaign for Campari in the Seventies.

It is presenting itself as the closest airport to the Games after London City in Docklands. The two and a half million passengers passing through Luton next July and August will be able to use Javelin trains to the Olympic Park if they travel on to St Pancras.

Luton – the capital’s fourth biggest airport – also hopes to cash in on disenchantment with Heathrow and Gatwick by promoting its relative absence of queues, ease of access to central London and short taxiing delays before take-off and landing.

Mr Jones said: “Our aim is to make London Luton the airport Londoners want to use, because it offers them the wide range of destinations at competitive prices, and most of all with a convenience other London airports haven’t always been able to deliver”.

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