East Midlands Airport boss on plans for future expansion (hope to double passengers and triple freight)
East Midlands Airport (EMA) is owned by MAG, the Manchester Airports Group, and the 3rd largest after Manchester and Stansted. In its most recent accounts, revenue grew by 3.6% to £62.4m for the year to March 2017 – far behind Manchester airport’s 12.5% growth to £444.5m, but slightly above the 3% for Stansted, which had a £294.1m turnover. The airport’s management hopes that being near Nottingham, Derby and Leicester, and with programmes such as HS2 and the Midlands Engine aiming to grow the local economy, it has growth prospects for the future. There are always hopes of connections to 2nd-tier Chinese cities such as Ningbo, where the University of Nottingham has a campus, India and the United States – possibly key markets in the post-Brexit world. East Midlands wants to double is passenger number, to 10 million – and almost treble the amount of freight to one million tonnes by around 2030 to 2035. It is the UK’s largest pure freight airport – for aircraft dedicated to carrying cargo – in the UK. (Heathrow has much more, but that comes as belly-hold cargo, in passenger planes). EMA handles about 350,000 tonnes of freight and cargo through a 24/7 operation. Noisy planes fly all night.
East Midlands Airport boss on plans for future expansion and new destinations
A new-look terminal could be on the way if the Castle Donington airport can reach 6.5 million passengers
By Dan Robinson (Deputy Business Editor, Nottingham Post)
24 OCT 2017
Unlike many transport hubs largely affiliated with cities, East Midlands Airport is at the very centre of the region, linking Nottingham, Derby and Leicester. With programmes such as HS2 and the Midlands Engine aiming to grow the local economy, the airport has a crucial role to play in its future. Dan Robinson sits down with managing director Andy Cliffe to find out its plans for new destinations and transforming its 50-year-old infrastructure
Before the economic crash of almost a decade ago, East Midlands Airport had never had it so good. Passenger numbers peaked in 2008 at just under six million, with the list of destinations including Amsterdam Schiphol, Paris, Frankfurt and Brussels.
But once the UK became embroiled in a global recession, holiday ideas were sidelined for many low-income families and spending was reined in by businesses, meaning the airport hit some turbulence.
It has slowly recovered, with airlines like Jet2.com and Ryanair whisking families off on beach breaks and ski trips to a growing list of destinations, recently adding the likes of Naples, Split, Girona, Geneva and Salzburg.
While the summer season passenger load has finally equalled the golden era of 2008, climbing by about 200,000 each year to reach 3.3 million people again in the six months to September 30 this year, the annual figure continues to lag at 4.7 million compared to around 5.8 million nine years ago.
Managing director Andy Cliffe says the winter traffic has not yet reached the same heights as before but he also acknowledges another key issue – the lack of major European hubs, all key economic centres that also offer links to the rest of the world, in the list of destinations available to the East Midlands traveller.
“Those short-haul destinations are an ambition to us, for sure, and it is an immediate priority for us,” he says.
“Places like Paris and Amsterdam, with multiple daily frequencies, are the types of services we want to get back.
“They’ll be crucial in supporting trade from our industries. In a post-Brexit climate, that connectivity to the European market is going to be really important, but it also gives us wider connections as well.
“If you fly to Frankfurt, for example, you can then connect to long-haul flights. It’s the same principle to Paris and Amsterdam. We know there’s demand in our region that we can serve better, and there’s definitely an opportunity to provide more businessservices.
“But when we put those services on, it will be really important for the major businesses around our region to support them. The dilemma is it’s a ‘use or lose it’ situation.”
Further afield, many businesses and the universities would like to see connections to second-tier Chinese cities such as Ningbo, where the University of Nottingham has a campus, India and the United States – all key markets in the post-Brexit world alluded to by Andy.
He adds: “Long-haul connectivity is also an ambition. The region has important connections into the Indian subcontinent, which is a key focus for us.
“There’s a lot of businesses in the East Midlands that want to connect into the West Coast of the USA and New York.
“But you have to bear in mind that Manchester is the only airport outside London to attract a Chinese flight.
“They’re difficult to make stick but we have talked about the ambition for East Midlands.
“We’ve joined trade missions with colleagues from the region and began a sister relationship with an airport in Ningbo last year, which is about collaboration between our cities and regions.
“It’s those sorts of things that start to provide a platform for connectivity going forward.”
Qualified accountant Andy, 44, has spent 18 years with Manchester Airports Group (MAG), the parent company of East Midlands Airport (EMA) that also owns Manchester, London Stansted and Bournemouth airports.
He became managing director of EMA four-and-a-half years ago, with Bournemouth Airport – the smallest in the group by far – also in his remit.
Although he commutes from his home in the North West, he spends a lot of time in Castle Donington and sits on East Midlands groups including Marketing NG and Leicester and Leicestershire Enterprise Partnership.
During his time at the helm, he says a “huge amount” has changed.
One of his first major challenges was to replace the gap left after Monarch pulled out of the airport in April 2015 (before its eventual demise this year).
The airline had begun operating at East Midlands after Castle Donington-based British Midland and BMIbaby – which had offered routes to major airports including Brussels, Paris and Schiphol – ceased trading three years earlier.
Andy Cliffe, managing director of East Midlands Airport (Image: Andrew Hallsworth)
Andy says: “We lost 10 percent of our traffic as Monarch provided 450,000 passengers a year.
“We backfilled those with a combination of Jet2.com and Ryanair to different destinations, and now we’ve got all that back, constantly growing during that period.
“We’ve grown well and the performance of the business has been very strong over the past number of years, adding new routes and carriers into the mix.
“During that time, there’s been no bit of terminal infrastructure we haven’t improved, while we’ve also introduced new car parking systems and expanded the security area.
“All those things have led us to a point where we’re getting the best customer experience scores in the airport’s history.”
As part of MAG, which is headquartered in Manchester, East Midlands is very much one of the little brothers as the third largest out of the four airports.
In its most recent accounts, revenue grew by 3.6 percent to £62.4m for the year to March 2017 – far behind Manchester’s 12.5 percent growth to £444.5m, but slightly above the three percent figure for Stansted, which had a £294.1m turnover.
Manchester has also enjoyed the highest increase in passenger numbers – 11.5 percent up to 26.2 million – while Stansted’s 4.7 percent rise to 24.3 million slightly eclipses East Midlands’ 4.4 percent growth to 4.7 million.
Andy stresses, though, that EMA demands as much attention as others in the group, pointing out the £50m investment over the past five years.
This included a new £15m runway last year that required the temporary closure of the airport, terminal improvements costing £16m in 2014 and other investments in customer-facing areas, such as expanding the security area.
“The focus is right across all our airports,” says Andy, who is part of the MAG executive committee.
“MAG sees the East Midlands as an opportunity for growth, which is set within our long-term vision.”
Andy’s vision for the future – one which he says is shared by MAG and part of its business plan – is to more than double passenger numbers to 10 million and almost treble the amount of freight to a million tonnes by around 2030 to 2035. That could also mean the number of employees, currently at 7,000 people, doubling.
With the core of the current airport built in 1965, he has previously spoken about building a new terminal once it reaches six million passengers.
Is that still on the agenda?
“Potentially,” says Andy. “We will continue to review how best to accommodate the rising number of passengers.
“We’ve had 5.6 million people at our peak so 6.5 million is a good planning number. We’re looking at the options for how to expand facilities. It’s likely that we will incrementally expand in the short-term and then look at significantly expanding thereafter.
“It wouldn’t be another terminal, it would be an expansion or a replacement of the existing building.”
While the airport already sits as the central transport hub in the region, Andy believes it could become an even more vital cog.
Getting the links right to the HS2 hub station in Toton is crucial, and the airport has been mentioned prominently in Midlands Connect, the emerging transport plan that is part of the Midlands Engine strategy.
Andy adds: “International connections and access to global markets is one of the fundamental parts of the Midlands Engine and Midlands Connect strategies, while the airports themselves provide economic assets in terms of the number of people we employ.
“The East Midlands is forecast to be one of the fastest-growing regions outside the South East in the next year, and we have a hugely important role to play.
“That’s a huge opportunity and one we can definitely grasp if we all come together and work for a common purpose that takes advantage of the strengths each of the three cities has.”
Great for freight
It is the UK’s largest pure freight airport – for aircraft dedicated to carrying cargo – in the UK.
Every year, it carries a total of 350,000 tonnes of freight and cargo through a 24/7 operation, facilitating about £9 billion of trade and exports.
Logistics giant DHL has grown by 50 percent after a £90m expansion to the south west of the airport, while UPS has submitted a planning application for a similar-sized warehouse at the eastern end.
Work also started earlier this year on a huge rail freight terminal, known as SEGRO Logistics Park East Midlands Gateway , taking advantage of links to the M1 and airport, which it will sit beside.
The 700-acre “inland port” will create 7,250 jobs, alongside construction roles and 3,000 indirect jobs.
Airport MD Andy Cliffe says: “The region has a strong manufacturing heritage with Toyota, Bombardier and Rolls-Royce, so cargo and exports are vital to that.
“Everything from online retail through to the movement of Rolls-Royce engines and hospital products that are urgently brought in to the Queen’s Medical Centre come through us.
“There’s no coincidence that there’s so much development around this region when we can get to any airport in the UK by truck within four hours. This area will transform in the next decade to 20 years.”
East Midlands Airport to refurbish full runway over weekends (nothing more ever heard of about the 2009 plans for a runway extension)
East Midlands Airport has announced that it will undertake a full length runway refurbishment project from 5th November till 19th December 2016. Therefore the airport will be closed to all traffic for 48 hours (8pm Saturday to 8pm Monday) each weekend, on 7 consecutive weekends. The airport hopes this will cause the least disruption to its airlines, and not affect the imports for Christmas. The timing avoids the busy summer holiday season when the airport makes a lot of money out the low cost leisure travel. The plan is for around 360 workers (Galliford Try is the principle contractor) every weekend laying 50,000 tonnes of specially formulated material across 150,000 square metres of runway etc n total. While the runway is closed, the airport is also replacing over 1,200 lights on and around the area with LED lighting, which uses less electricity than the previous lighting, cutting airport energy costs. East Midlands’ runway was last refurbished in 1999, and has a natural lifespan of around 12-17 years. They are all hoping the work will be done on time and within the weekend periods. The airport hoped, in its forecasts around 2005, to have 4 times as much freight in 2016 as it had in 2004. The level has actually risen by just a few %. They also then hoped for a doubling of flights and passengers. The number of flights has barely risen and the number of passengers has slightly fallen. So much for forecasts.