Transport secretary Chris Grayling has officially opened Luton airport’s upgraded terminal, following a three-year, £160 million redevelopment project.

The transformation has been the biggest in the airport’s 80-year history and will increase its annual capacity to 18 million passengers by 2020.

Since the work began, passenger numbers have increased by 35%, with more than 16.5 million passengers expected to fly in 2018 – up 5% on 2017.

Grayling said: “London Luton’s investment firmly puts passengers at the heart of development and will improve the experience of those using the airport for business or holidays.

“Supporting thriving airports like London Luton will form a part of the government’s Aviation 2050 consultation, ensuring the benefits of transformation are felt across the local area.”

Nick Barton, the airport’s chief exectuive, said: “We celebrated our 80th anniversary in the summer and now we have completed our three-year transformation which brings a host of benefits to passengers.

“We are the fastest-growing major London airport and are now in a position to play an increasingly important role in the UK’s aviation network.”

The upgraded terminal includes 30 new high street and luxury stores; more than 1,000 extra seats; a new boarding pier; an expanded security search area; and a new dual carriageway, bus interchange and multi-storey car park.

Johan Lundgren, easyJet chief executive commented, said: “As the largest airline operating to and from London Luton Airport, we are excited that the airport’s transformation will benefit the seven million easyJet customers who use the airport every year.

“This transformation project was a key factor in our commitment to long-term growth at the airport, so it’s great to see its completion.”

Other airlines flying from Luton include Wizz Air, Ryanair, Thomas Cook Airlines, Tui, EL AL, Blue Air, TAROM, SunExpress, Iberia (Air Nostrum) and Vueling.