Airports group sees passenger numbers increase as restrictions ease
Manchester Airports Group (MAG) airports served 2.7 million passengers in October, which represented 51% of pre-pandemic traffic compared with the same month in October 2019.
These figures mark six months of sustained increases in the number of passengers travelling through MAG airports, which include Manchester, East Midlands and London Stansted Airports.
In May 2021, the group only welcomed 260,000 passengers. By contrast, October 2021 is the first month since February 2020 in which both Manchester and London Stansted airports have each served more than one million passengers.
The increase seen in October was boosted by the half term period and pent-up demand for international travel after more than a year of COVID-related disruption. MAG’s airports served one million passengers during half term alone, making it the busiest period since the pandemic began.
The number of passengers served in October was 22% higher than in September following a further easing of restrictions on international travel on October 4, which saw PCR tests replaced by cheaper lateral flow requirements, alongside the removal of all remaining countries from the ‘red list’.
This positive trend is expected to continue in the lead up to the festive season.
Leisure travel between the UK and the US resumed on November 8, in a significant moment for the revival of the aviation industry. Manchester Airport’s Virgin Atlantic services to New York and Orlando restarted on the first day after the relaxation, with the Singapore Airlines service to Houston set to return in early December. Aer Lingus is also launching new services to New York, Orlando and Boston later this month, having established a new base at Manchester which is already operating flights to Barbados.
As the North’s global gateway, Manchester Airport served 1.6 million passengers travelling direct to the US each year before the pandemic and is currently expecting to welcome back approximately half of its pre-pandemic routes to America in the first month of the transatlantic restart. The airport is also working with airlines to resume the remaining services as soon as possible.
London Stansted’s broad range of direct connections across Europe has made its recovery the strongest amongst major UK airports. Traffic returned to 43% of pre-pandemic levels in September, compared with 38% at London Heathrow, and 24% at London Gatwick, according to CAA data.
East Midlands Airport has also had its busiest period since passenger operations resumed, and this month served more than 200,000 passengers. East Midlands also recently confirmed that Ryanair would be operating 31 routes from the airport in summer 2022, which will see in excess of 130 flights a week to popular European holiday destinations.
To ensure the recovery continues, the UK’s largest airport group is calling on the Government to set out a clear commitment and roadmap for removing all remaining restrictions on international travel in 2022.
Clarity on the Government’s ambition to return to restriction-free travel as soon as possible would allow consumers and the aviation sector to look ahead to the summer season with confidence, following almost two years of shut down and uncertainty.
Cargo volumes at East Midlands airport were 8.9% higher in October compared with the same month last year, as the UK’s largest pure freight airport heads towards its busiest time over the festive period. Volumes at Manchester Airport are also up 23.6%, while London Stansted saw volumes decrease by 24.6%.
Charlie Cornish, MAG CEO, said: “These figures demonstrate clearly how the demand for international travel is ready and waiting for when restrictions are eased.
“It is hugely positive to have seen our traffic levels recover month on month, and the removal of costly barriers and uncertainty is giving consumers renewed confidence to get back to travel.”
He added: “We need to see this positive trend continue following the reopening of transatlantic services to the US in early November and as we continue to rebuild Manchester Airport’s network of direct long haul connections.
“To ensure we continue on this path to a full recovery, we are calling on the Government to set out a clear ambition and plan for removing remaining restrictions on travelling abroad at the earliest opportunity.”