Manchester Airport owner comes out of tailspin but bumpy journey still ahead

The easing of travel restrictions helped Manchester Airport owner MAG make a big step forward during the summer but it still has a long and uncertain journey ahead to return to pre-pandemic trading.

MAG operates Manchester, East Midlands and Stansted airports and passenger numbers for the first six months of the year were 6.6m, up 57% up on a year earlier but 82% down on the same period in 2019.

Passenger numbers have continued to improve since September, which is the end of the financial reporting period. Manchester Airport welcomed 1m passengers in November, the first time it had reached this level since before the first lockdown 20 months earlier.

Passenger growth in the six months to September was behind a £64.9m increase in revenue and cost savings of £42.1m resulted in a £107m turnaround in earnings to £25.1m.

However Omicron, and the responses of countries to concerns about the spread of the variant, is having an impact on the momentum that had been generated in recent months.

The group has told investors that Omicron “has the potential to delay the recovery in international travel, given the risk of governments maintaining more stringent travel restrictions in response to scientific advice about the level of threat associated with the new variant”.

The situation is changing rapidly – as shown by Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Plan B announcements last night – and MAG has said it “is not possible to assess the impact of these restrictions or additional restrictions that might be imposed” at this time.

Charlie Cornish, group chief executive at MAG, added: “Once this immediate uncertainty has been resolved, we will work with the Government to establish a clear roadmap for 2022 including the conditions under which restrictions can be removed completely.

“This will make a major contribution to the restoration of consumer confidence as travellers look to book leisure and business trips from MAG airports heading into the new financial year.”