The government has agreed to examine proposals to expand Luton Airport that would see passenger numbers increase from 18 million to 32 million a year.
Luton Rising, the Luton Council company that owns the airport, said it could generate £1.5bn per year and create thousands of new jobs.
But anti-noise campaigners have called the expansion plans "tragic".
The government's Planning Inspectorate has six months to examine the plans.
The transport secretary will then decide whether to grant development consent.
The expansion plans include new terminal capacity, an extension to the current airfield platform and new airside and landside facilities.