Stansted Airport's boss predicts strong recovery in 2022
Stansted Airport's operator is predicting a strong recovery in passenger numbers in 2022.
The optimism of Manchester Airports Group (MAG) has been sparked by the easing of Covid-19 travel restrictions which were put in place in response to the Omicron variant.
Before testing was tightened up in November and December, MAG's three airports of Stansted, Manchester and East Midlands were seeing a stronger recovery than others in the UK.
According to data from November, the group was seeing around 60% of pre-pandemic passenger numbers, with Stansted recovering at the fastest rate overall.
However, figures for December just released show that overall traffic was down 54.8% compared with the same month in 2019, as a result of the enhanced testing requirements put in place.
This meant traffic fell by around 30% month-on-month, but MAG has seen bookings surge in the days following the news that pre-departure and Day 2 PCR testing would be removed.
MAG chief executive Charlie Cornish said: "Now that Omicron testing requirements have been removed, people are clearly excited about where they can travel this year.
"We're confident that the recovery will be strong as we head towards the summer, and the sharp increase in bookings in recent days is hugely encouraging.
"It's clear that the temporary reintroduction of travel restrictions impacted passenger confidence during December, which came after we had seen a strong revival of passenger volumes up to November.
"We will continue to work closely with the Government on a plan for the full removal of all remaining restrictions and hope to see that set out by the end of the month.
"As we prepare our airports for the increased demand we expect to see, we're delighted to be creating thousands of jobs right across MAG, to suit a range of experience and skills, which will all play a part in ensuring our passengers have the best possible experience as we get back to travel."
Mr Cornish was expecting traffic much closer to pre-pandemic levels by the end of the summer season. In December, passenger volumes at Stansted, Manchester and East Midlands were down 54.9%, 53.8% and 63.0% on 2019 levels respectively.
MAG's rolling 12-month total passenger numbers show that while the group served 9.1% fewer passengers in 2021 compared to 2020, the three airports saw a much stronger recovery in recent months compared to the same period a year earlier. For example, they served 51% of pre-pandemic traffic in October 2021 compared to 16% in October 2020.
In 2019, Stansted was the fourth busiest UK airport, serving 28m passengers, but its rolling 12-month total to December 2021 was 7,137,113.