Stansted and Manchester airports growing rapidly, with huge spare capacity

Manchester Airports Group (MAG), owners of Stansted and Manchester airports, have announced “unrivalled growth” last year in its annual results. Stansted is hopeful that it can grow significantly in coming years, from the strength of its region and catchment area. The number of passengers at Manchester airport rose last year (to 31st March) by 7.2% to 22.3 million in the year to March 31, the number at Stansted rose by 16.1%.  MAG revenue increased by 10% to £738.4m and operating profits by more than 30% to £153.6m. The proportion of business passengers at Stansted was reported to have risen by 20%. (It was 14.2% of passengers in 2013).  MAG says when it bought Stansted from BAA at the start of 2013, the estimated gross value added to the local economy was £750m – it is now estimated to be more than £1 billion.  Stansted wants better train services with both a faster railway and one that has more resilience.  Stansted has runway capacity to double its current number of passengers, to 35 million per year, and its CEO has been working to try to get more long haul flights. Previous flights to the USA have not been profitable. MAG will continue its investment in Stansted facilities beyond the current £265 million programme which is 50% complete.

Stansted Airport owners in for the long haul

22.7.2015 (Business Weekly)

By Tony Quested

Stansted Airport managing director Andrew Harrison and members of his commercial team are visiting major global airlines once a month to accelerate the return of regular long-haul flights to the Essex hub.

Harrison spent 42 and a quarter hours in the sky on one recent round that took in carriers in the Middle East, Far East and the US but says there can be no let up in a relentless pursuit to make long haul and Stansted synonymous once more.

Four airlines have tried to establish a Stansted-US service over recent times but only Continental – hit by 9/11 three months in – could claim ill-fortune. The last of the pretenders, American Airlines, nipped in, took out two rivals, and promptly pulled out again but had cleared a pitch for a future day.

Stansted’s owner, the Manchester Airport Group, today announced a strong set of results and Harrison said M.A.G was utterly determined to continue to invest in an aggressive growth strategy for Stansted.

He said: “Today we had our 13th successive month of double digit growth and it is not a flash in the pan. Over the period of M.A.G’s results Stansted experienced a 16 per cent increase in passenger numbers – representing growth of four million people – which is more than Gatwick and Heathrow combined.

“What’s even more interesting is that business passenger numbers grew even faster – around the 20 per cent mark. Stansted’s catchment area has grown and and we have managed to capture more of that market than previous operators of the airport. But we are not finished by any means.

“Carriers like Ryanair have repaid our faith by increasing the number of routes they are now putting through Stansted which previously went elsewhere – 35 new routes in Ryanair’s case.

“There has been an increase in services that allow business executives to get out to a European destination and back in the same day, which is a tremendous advantage to busy companies.”

Stansted is also seeing an uptick on the leisure side with Thomas Cook just having launched Orlando, Cancun and Las Vegas. All the maiden flights last weekend were full and the service is 98 per cent sold for the whole summer.

Harrison believes there is a lot more business where that came from. He said: “200 airports a year visit these carriers and we have to change the narrative so airlines realise the significance of our catchment area.

“London Stansted gives airlines access to London, the huge science & technology cluster in Cambridge, East London, Herts, Essex and the whole of East Anglia. And potential passengers in this catchment don’t have to undergo the ordeal of a one and a half, or even four and a half hour drive to get to Heathrow to catch a plane when they have Stansted on their doorstep.

“Myself and my commercial team are going around the world telling top carriers our story – and the reality is we now have to achieve cut-through. We have to convince American Airlines, for example, sitting in Dallas that their understanding of London and Stansted is outdated; that the east of our catchment is growing faster than the west; that Cambridge is driving major jobs growth and attracting life science giants such as AstraZeneca and now Illumina, and tech greats such as Apple.

“Because of what has happened – or rather not happened – under past ownership, Stansted visiting these airlines is not simply starting from zero: It is starting from -1. We have to work twice as hard as competing airlines, therefore, to show these carriers that they have got it wrong.”

Harrison and the team report encouraging feedback to date and believe that converting the first of these mega-prospects into a customer will prove transformational.
M.A.G intends to continue its investment in Stansted facilities beyond the current £265 million programme which is 50 per cent complete.

Buoyed by the fact that it has the capacity that Heathrow and Gatwick lack, and that it could be years before Heathrow gets another runway, M.A.G intends to harness technological innovation to elicit the maximum capability from Stansted’s infrastructure.

That will include investment in new technology to boost security – ensuring that austerity cuts to the Home Office’s Border Force budget does not undermine passenger confidence. It will also involve increased automation of check-in facilities to further improve the customer experience.

One innovation will involve hi-tech tagging of luggage – even down to tagging a passenger’s bag at Cambridge railway station, for example, so they can simply pick up the already checked-in luggage when they arrive at Stansted.

“We intend to explore every conceivable angle to make Stansted a dream venue for air travel,” said Harrison.

• Manchester Airports Group reports revenue 10 per cent higher to £738.4 million and operating profit 30.8 per cent ahead to £153.6m  for the 12 months ended March 31.



Stansted Airport celebrates ‘unrivalled growth’ as MAG reveals annual results

22.7.2015 (Herts and Essex Observer)

Staff at Stansted Airport are celebrating “unrivalled growth” this week as parent company Manchester Airports Group (MAG) publishes its annual results.

Stansted’s managing director, Andrew Harrison, said: “It’s a great story. Two years ago, when we first arrived as a new team, embarking on the future, we had strong plans, but this growth has surpassed those plans and really demonstrates the strength of our catchment area.”

While its northern sister, Manchester Airport, boasted record passenger growth, up 7.2 per cent to 22.3 million in the year to March 31, the Uttlesford hub surged ahead, up 16.1 per cent to 20.9m travellers through the terminal in the same 12 months.

Together, Stansted and Manchester’s growth exceeded that of Heathrow and Gatwick airports combined. For the group, revenue increased by 10 per cent to £738.4m and operating profits by more than 30 per cent to £153.6m.

Mr Harrison said business travel from Stansted was up a gratifying 20 per cent.

When MAG bought Stansted from BAA at the start of 2013, the estimated gross value added to the local economy was £750m – it is now estimated to be more than £1 billion. The workforce on site has increased from 10,200 to 11,500.

More than 30 new routes have been introduced, helping generate an extra four million passengers,

Mr Harrison, a former MD at Manchester, is now looking forward to Stansted reclaiming its position as the UK’s third largest airport and settling some friendly inter-group rivalry.

“We are growing slightly faster than Manchester, although both are growing phenomenally,” he said. “Midway through next year we should be neck and neck, and if growth continues in a similar vein we might catch them sooner.”

While he was mindful of world events like the terrorist attack on British tourists in Tunisia and the impact of Greece’s debt crisis on the Eurozone, Mr Harrison was confident that growth was sustainable.

All the signs are encouraging. Thomas Cook’s inaugural flights to Las Vegas and Orlando in the USA and Cancun in Mexico, which launched last Friday, Saturday and Monday (July 17-20), were 100 per cent full and the rest of the airline’s summer schedule are 98 per cent booked.

The growth has been achieved amid testing times for the Stansted team as the terminal has remained fully operational during an £80m transformation as part of a £265m investment overall.

Mr Harrison said: “I think we knew we had to move quickly. Growth is something you cannot turn on and off, and if you try and turn it off until you’re ready for it you are likely to lose it.”

His key objectives are to complete the terminal revamp by the end of the year, continue negotiations with the Home Office and Border Force over passport control provision and “critically” to push for better train services.

Uttlesford’s MP, Sir Alan Haselhurst, is now the chairman of the Greater Anglia Task Force, set up to find the best solution to capacity and investment issues on the railway into London.

Mr Harrison said: “We are very, very supportive of what’s going on with the rail campaign. We are on record as saying we need a faster railway and one that has more resilience in it. We need people to be able to get to the airport and get away first thing in the morning and last thing at night.

“We need investment in rail – but we also need a thriving corridor between London and Cambridge, so we are hand in hand with commuters.

“This is a critical piece of work, not just for the airport but for the region as a whole.”

Sir Howard Davies’ Airport Commission has backed a third runway at Heathrow as the solution to the country’s aviation capacity crisis in the long run, but Mr Harrison said that in the short term Stansted was best placed to soak up demand, with the ability to double passenger numbers on its existing single runway.

Following the Conservatives’ General Election victory in May, Mr Harrison said the Government had to put its money where its mouth is and send a message to the world that the South East is open for business.

He said global carriers were already realising they may have to develop “alternative strategies” beyond Heathrow to meet demand, and he was hopeful there would be movement towards a permanent long-haul service from Stansted in the next year, but he emphasised the success of the region and the airport were inseparable.

“We are delighted with the results…which justify our spending,” said Mr Harrison. “We took a flier hoping we would be able to grow the airport and underpin our investment.”