Beds, Herts & Bucks

Luton Airport turns 80: Affordable travel and a Campari ad

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Media captionLuton Airport's 80 years of emotional arrivals

Luton Airport, which helped pioneer affordable air travel after World War Two, is marking its 80th birthday.

Luton Municipal Airport in Bedfordshire was opened in 1938 and renamed London Luton Airport in 1990.

Its fame was boosted by a 1970s Campari TV advert that saw Lorraine Chase asked if she "wafted here from Paradise", to which she replied "nah, Luton Airport".

A Campari cocktail named after the actress has been created by an airport restaurant to mark the anniversary.

Image copyright London Luton Airport
Image caption The airport at the beginning of World War Two, with buildings including hangars painted in a camouflage effect
Image copyright London Luton Airport
Image caption Luton began developing its civilian flights after the war - the queues for customs were much shorter in the 1950s

The airport - which is still owned by Luton Borough Council but run privately - was opened by Kingsley Wood, the Secretary of State for Air.

Civilian and military aircraft were designed and built there during World War Two, and it was briefly the base of 264 Fighter Squadron.

After the airport returned to civilian use it increased its business and, by 1969, a fifth of all holiday flights from the UK departed from Luton.

Image copyright London Luton Airport
Image caption The ill-fated British jet plane the Comet (above) and luxury airliner Concorde both made stops at Luton
Image copyright London Luton Airport
Image caption Monarch Airlines was based at Luton for 50 years before its collapse in October

The airport hit the headlines in the 1970s when Lorraine Chase starred in the Campari ad.

In 2007, she told the BBC: "If people didn't know it had an airport, they certainly knew after that commercial."

The airport will sell the cocktail named after the actress this week.

Image copyright Alamy
Image caption The Campari commercial was shown on TV in 1977

Luton Airport's place in popular culture

The Lorraine Chase advert inspired four-piece girl band Cats UK's 1979 hit single Luton Airport (oo-ee-oo).

The airport featured in two fly-on-the-wall ITV series - Airline, which began in 1998, and Luton Airport, which ran from 2005 to 2008.

Airport restaurant Oriel Grande Brasserie worked with Campari to develop the cocktail - "a classic G&T a bitter and red twist".

The airport was often used by the England football team when travelling to and from away games and tournaments overseas.

When the squad reached the semi-finals of the 1990 World Cup they flew home from Italy to Luton and were greeted by 300,000 fans on the streets of the town - scenes current manager Gareth Southgate was keen to avoid when his team matched the achievement this month.

Image copyright London Luton Airport
Image caption The England football team returned to Luton after reaching the 1990 World Cup semi-finals and paraded in an open top bus as thousands of fans lined the streets
Image copyright London Luton Airport
Image caption The airport is the fifth largest in the UK in terms of passengers but is one of the smallest in size at 196 hectares (484 acres)

Passenger numbers declined in 1991 after Ryanair moved much of its business to Stansted Airport.

But it is now the UK's fifth-busiest airport in terms of people using it, carrying 16 million passengers in 2017.

Image caption Luton Airport said more than 250,000,000 passengers have travelled through the airport since it opened
Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Its single runway is 1.3 miles (2,160m) long and 11 airlines operate from Luton

A growth plan published in December, with the ambition of reaching 38 million passengers by 2050 with 240,000 flights a year using its one runway, has been criticised by Hitchin and Harpenden MP Bim Afolami.

It currently employs more than 9,400 people, and is spending £150m on expanding its terminal.

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