Future Airspace

Find out how London Stansted Airport is modernising airspace.

In 2017, the Government set out its policy on the future of UK airspace which made it clear that airspace modernisation is essential. UK airspace has undergone very little change since it was first mapped out in the 1950s, and with the increasing demand for flying, a lot of the way our skies are managed is outdated.

Therefore, the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) launched their Airspace Modernisation Strategy in 2018 with the objective of delivering quicker, quieter and cleaner journeys. 

London Stansted Airport fully supports airspace modernisation and the wide range of benefits that it can offer, notably helping to reduce carbon emissions, enabling us to better manage how noise impacts our local communities, reducing the need for aircraft stacking on arrival and reducing delays for passengers.

Stage 2

Stage 2 required us to develop a list of route options that address our Statement of Need and align with our design principles. Our route designers firstly identified areas where it could be possible to design routes and areas where it would not. The design envelopes (areas that we could potentially design routes in) were then presented to local stakeholders during online discussion sessions as part of the first of two engagement phases. We asked stakeholders questions such as whether the process we had followed was clear and whether there were any local factors that should be considered during the route design process.

Taking the feedback gathered in the discussion sessions into consideration, our route designers started to develop a set of potential route options within the design envelopes. These potential routes were then presented to the same stakeholders during the second phase of engagement. Once again, we asked if the process followed was clear and if our routes considered local factors.

These route options were then assessed against the 11 design principles created at Stage 1. The options that closely aligned with the design principles were taken forward for further analysis in the Initial Options Appraisal (IOA). The IOA provided a qualitative assessment of each route option which included impacts such as air quality, tranquillity and cost.

We received approval from the CAA in March 2022 and will proceed to the Stage 3 which will include full public consultation. You can view our submission report and all accompanying appendices on the CAA’s airspace change portal.


Stage 1

Step 1B required us to define the high-level considerations that will inform our eventual airspace change proposals. CAP1616 expects us to draw up our design principles through engagement with our stakeholders.

Engagement at Step 1B, Design Principles, began in March 2020 and is now complete. We considered all the feedback received through the engagement stage and taking this on board, produced a set of proposed Design Principles which were submitted to the industry regulator, the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) for review. You can view our submission report and all accompanying appendices on the CAA’s airspace change portal.

Sign up for updates

The future airspace program is a significant project and will be running for some time. If you would like to stay up to date with developments, please email futureairspace@stanstedairport.com with the following information and we will add you to our mailing list:

  • Your name

  • Your postcode

  • Your email address or postal address

We will update at significant stages of the project such as ‘Gateways’ and when we commence full-scale consultation in Stage 3. There may be long periods of time when you receive nothing from us. Please note, in line with General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR), the information you will provide will be used solely for the purpose of corresponding with you about future airspace and all details will be destroyed at the end of the programme.

Future Airspace

Airspace is the term usually used to refer to the area from the ground to a height of 66,000ft. UK airspace is among the busiest in the world and therefore needs to be managed carefully to make sure we can provide safe and reliable journeys.

NATS is responsible for managing UK airspace, through their air traffic control centres. Individual airports, such as London Stansted Airport are responsible for managing their local airspace, making sure that arriving and departing aircraft are safety co-ordinated with the national control centre and other airports nearby.

The way we manage airspace remains largely unchanged since the 1950s and with an increase in demand for air travel, our airspace is reaching capacity. Although advances in technology have brought improvements, a lot of the way our skies are managed was for a different time. For example, to keep aircraft safe NATS builds in delay when the airspace gets too busy. While today flights experience only around 10 seconds of air traffic control delay. It is forecast that by 2030 passengers could face delays of more than 30 minutes. Early analysis by NATS also suggests airspace modernisation could deliver up to 20 per cent of annual savings in fuel burn and CO2 emissions.

The modern ways of flying that are available to us might mean that we can make customers’ journeys more reliable, reduce the effects flying has on our environment and make further improvements in safety.

There are a number of stakeholders involved in this programme, however the CAA have overall responsibility for the process of modernising airspace. The Government expects all UK airports to modernise airspace close to their runway (below 7,000ft) and our national air traffic service provider (NATS) are modernising airspace at higher altitudes (above 7,000ft). To makes sure that all the changes to lower and higher altitudes work together, the Government and the CAA have set up a new body, the Airspace Change Organisation Group (ACOG) to co-ordinate the program of airspace modernisation projects

The CAA have set out a formal process, called CAP1616, that all airports must follow throughout their airspace change programme. CAP1616 outlines a number of detailed stages that must be followed, with the CAA approval required at the end of each in order to progress. You can find out more about CAP1616 by following this link to the CAA’s website.

You can find out more information about London Stansted Airport’s current operations by clicking here.

We have created an independent Stakeholder Reference Group (SRG) to challenge and provide advice on our communication and consultation plans. The SRG will be made up of a selection of stakeholders and will:

  • Independently managed by the Consultation Institute, on independent organisation that specialises in managing and giving advice on public consultation.

  • Meet periodically during the Future Airspace project to comment on and review the process that London Stansted Airport uses during the whole CAP1616 review.

If you would like to be kept up to date with developments, please email futureairspace@stanstedairport.com with the following information and we will add you to our mailing list:

  • Your name

  • Your postcode

  • Your Email address or postal address

In line with General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR), the information you provide will be used solely for the purpose of corresponding with you about future airspace and all details will be destroyed at the end of the programme. You can find our data protection policy by following this link.