Bosses at Luton Airport have announced proposals for a replacement runway and a new terminal to be completed in time for London's 2012 Olympics.
They said they intended to submit a planning application for the developments within 18 months.
Before that, the Bedfordshire airport will also submit a proposal to extend its existing facilities.
The plans, aimed at catering for growth in air travel during the next 25 years, have led to protests.
The airport's draft master plan was in response to government estimates that its passenger numbers will triple by 2030.
Airport bosses said the airport would reach its capacity in the next few years, despite efforts to improve efficiency.
The first planning application would include the construction of additional aircraft stands, a terminal extension and piers, car parks and extensions to the taxiway.
The second planning application would include a full-length replacement runway, a new south terminal and reception, additional aircraft stands and a new fire station and control tower.
The new runway will be built 950 metres south of the existing runway, on land which is not currently owned by the airport. Up to 9,000 jobs would be created, airport bosses said.
Luton Airport's managing director Kathryn James said the existing runway would be used for emergencies, when maintenance work was carried out on the new runway and could have future benefits.
"We recognise that the Aviation White Paper took us to 2030 and the world won't stop turning after 2030 so that (existing) runway gives us future benefits long term, very long-term. But that's not part of the master plan vision today."
Hertfordshire county councillor Bernard Lloyd said the government should focus on expanding airports in the north.
"This is the wrong site, it's a crowded site. The facilities for road and rail connections are just not there," he added.
"What we're seeing is a government-driven programme to crowd increased airport usage into the south east, when they should be moving further north where there's room for expansion."
People living near the airport have said they are "extremely worried" about the expansion, and are planning to stage protests over the plans.
Environmentalists have also warned such expansion will just feed travellers' appetite for cheap air travel, which they describe as a serious threat to the global climate.