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Stansted Airport recovery under way as passengers return to 43% of pre-pandemic levels

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Stansted Airport is making a stronger recovery than its London rivals according to the latest passenger data.

Traffic returned to 43% of pre-pandemic levels in September compared with 38% at Heathrow and 24% at Gatwick, according to CAA data.

Overall, the Uttlesford base's operator, Manchester Airports Group (MAG), served 2.7 million passengers in October at Stansted, Manchester and East Midlands, which represents 51% of pre-pandemic traffic compared with the same month in October 2019.

Stansted Airport terminal (53142365)
Stansted Airport terminal (53142365)

These figures mark six months of sustained increases – in May 2021, the group handled 260,000 passengers.

By contrast, October was the first month since February 2020 in which Stansted (1,339,922) and Manchester (1,205,721) have served more than a million passengers each. At Stansted, that was a 235.8% increase on October 2020.

The totals were boosted by half-term holidays – MAG airports served one million passengers – making it the busiest period since the pandemic began and pent-up demand for international travel after more than a year of Covid-related disruption.

Stansted Airport. (53142356)
Stansted Airport. (53142356)

October's passenger number was 22% higher than in September following a further easing of restrictions on international travel on October 4, which saw PCR (polymerase chain reaction) tests replaced by cheaper lateral flow requirements, alongside the removal of all remaining countries from the 'red list'.

At Stansted, the rolling 12-month total to October was 5,411,333 – up 51.1% year on year. By contrast, the rolling 12-month total to October 2020 was 11,068,457.

This positive trend is expected to continue in the lead-up to the festive season. Leisure travel between the UK and the USA resumed on November 8 in a significant moment for the revival of the aviation industry.

MAG chief executive Charlie Cornish said: "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.

MAG chief executive Charlie Cornish
MAG chief executive Charlie Cornish

"We need to see this positive trend continue following the reopening of transatlantic services to the US in early November.

"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."

Cargo volumes at Stansted slumped by 24.6% in October compared with the same month last year.

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