Wednesday, July 12, 2017
Airport chief tells Government to look beyond Heathrow in upcoming aviation strategy
By Bradley Gerrard
United Kingdom - The Telegraph
Manchester airport could cope with up to 55m passengers compared to its 26m at present.
The Government’s forthcoming aviation strategy should not focus solely on expansion at Heathrow, a major airport group has said.
Charlie Cornish, chief executive of Manchester Airports Group, said he had been engaged in talks with ministers for the past 18 months ahead of the publication of the country’s airport strategy later this year.
Mr Cornish said Stansted airport, which his company owns, was capped by law at 35m passengers at present but had the capacity to deal with 44.5m, while Manchester’s 26m passengers could grow to 55m using its two existing runways.
“What we are anxious for the Government to do is not solely focus on Heathrow,” he said.
“Certainly that needs to be a part of the strategy but equally the Government needs to focus on how it can spread growth across the UK.”
The airport chief suggested improving rail links to existing airports could help the UK make use of its spare airport capacity without the need for more runways.
The group, which also owns East Midlands and Bournemouth airports, saw passenger numbers rise 4m to a record 55.9m in the year to March.
Mr Cornish said it might have even been higher had it not been for Brexit, which he thought had put some airlines off launching routes amid the uncertainty following the EU referendum.
He said he would have expected Stansted to be offering more long-haul routes than it currently does now but that “Brexit had pushed that back”, due to factors such as the falling pound making overseas trips for Britons more expensive as well as the general business uncertainty.
The group now has 282 routes, which is more than any other UK airport group and Mr Cornish expected there to be more routes to the US, Asia and Middle East in the coming years.
Major investment is being ploughed into Stansted with a £450m injection planned to build a dedicated arrivals building, overhaul its existing terminal and create 20 more stands for aircraft.
At Manchester Mr Cornish said an £850m development programme of its land bank around the airport is ongoing and plans to expand its Terminal 2 were progressing well.
The group saw revenue rise nearly 8pc to £839.6m thanks to increases in income from airline charges and retail rents. This helped push operating profits up 10pc to £205.5m.