American Airlines begins Manchester-Charlotte service

MANCHESTER Airport chiefs hailed the launch of the latest long-haul route today and declared there is “plenty more to go for”.

The new route, a daily service to Charlotte Douglas International Airport in North Carolina, US, will be the fourth operated by the American Airlines from Manchester, although it will be operated by its recent merger partner US Airways.

Ken O’Toole, commercial director at Manchester Airports Group, said his team were looking next at increasing the frequency of flights to New York as well as bringing a direct Beijing route in the coming months.

He told TheBusinessDesk: “In our underlying catchment area we estimate believe around two million passengers go to the US a year. We are only serving around half that number at the moment so there’s a lot of untapped demand.

“Our Fly Manchester campaign is all about demonstrating to passengers there is a long-haul alternative to Heathrow here.”

He said the launch of the route to Charlotte was “gratifying” and the fruit of 18 months’ work by his team in setting out a compelling business case for them to expand or launch Manchester flights.

The former Ryanair executive said Manchester has a “lot of traction” with the airlines on the back of increasing passenger numbers.

“We are going to hit 21 million soon and that’ll be getting close to the 2007 peak of 22 million, and I am pretty confident we’re going to get there in the next 12 to 18 months.”

Clive Cook American Airlines’ MD of Airports UK & Ireland said that for the airline Manchester has an equal standing to European capital cities such as Rome and Madrid.

“There’s a lot of confidence about Manchester – its up there with big capital cities. We are pretty confident we can be successful with the Charlotte route – it is a major hub for the airline.

“The route will begin as a seasonal, but if there’s demand, we’ll look at the potential for a year round service.”

He added: “We are thrilled to add this flight to Charlotte, complementing our existing services to Chicago, New York and Philadelphia.

“Charlotte is one of the major airport hubs in the US with 39 million annual passengers where we have close to 630 daily departures to almost 150 destinations, travellers from Manchester will have excellent opportunities to connect onwards across the US or enjoy this historical city and its surroundings.”