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Stansted Airport bids for 66% increase in today's passenger numbers

Stansted Airports currently handles 25.9 million passengers a year and wants to be allowed to handle 43 million
Stansted Airports currently handles 25.9 million passengers a year and wants to be allowed to handle 43 million

Stansted Airport is pushing ahead with plans to expand its current passenger numbers by two-thirds.

Stansted Airport chief executive Ken OToole
Stansted Airport chief executive Ken OToole

Today (Thursday), owner Manchester Airports Group (MAG) has submitted a planning application to raise the ceiling on passenger numbers from 35 million a year to 43m on the existing single runway.

The hub has just recorded its busiest ever January and a rolling annual total of 25.9m, and anticipates reaching its current cap of 35m by the early 2020s.

Airport bosses say the new limit is required to meet growth expectations over the next decade. Analysis in the planning application to Uttlesford District Council demonstrates how the ongoing introduction of quieter aircraft will ensure that future passenger growth can be achieved without increasing the number of flights or noise footprint already permitted. For example, the new Boeing 737 MAX and Airbus A320 Neo aircraft being brought into service by Ryanair and easyJet are up to 50% quieter than the aircraft they are replacing.

In the five years since MAG acquired Stansted, it has invested £150m and annual passenger numbers have increased by nearly 10m to 26m. This growth has been delivered through a 25% increase in destinations served by the airport, now 190, and a doubling of the number of airlines using the airport to 22.

Stansted is the best-connected UK airport for flights to Europe, and this year will see a rapid expansion of its long-haul route network, with services being added to New York, Boston, Toronto, Washington DC and Dubai and the 150 onward destinations it offers.

Recently, work began on the second phase of Stansted’s transformation – a five-year, £600m construction programme that will see a new arrivals building and conversion of the existing terminal into a dedicated departing passenger-only facility.

Chief executive Ken O’Toole said: “Today, London Stansted Airport is virtually unrecognisable from the one which MAG acquired almost five years ago to the day.

“Looking to the future, demand at Stansted is predicted to remain strong, and with constraints on runway capacity in the South East increasing, we are expecting to reach our current limit on passenger numbers in the early 2020s. We are now at the point where it is right to consider the framework for the airport’s growth beyond the current limit.

“From day one, we have been guided by a belief that when our business prospers, the regions and communities in which we operate also prosper, and I am proud of the fact that we have managed to deliver our growth in a phased way and worked hard to closely involve our local communities in this journey.

“Over the past six months we have consulted widely on our future growth plans and, based on the feedback from these discussions, we’ve made sure our growth can be achieved within current limits on flight numbers and with no increase in the size of the airport’s noise footprint. This is good news for local residents.

“In addition, thousands more local jobs will be created and our long-haul connectivity to fast-growing markets like China, USA and India will receive a real boost.

“The recent announcement by Emirates that it will begin daily services to Dubai, in addition to Primera Air launching flights to New York, Boston, Washington and Toronto this year, is a clear statement of what the airport can achieve, and we are talking to a range of airlines who are looking to grow their operations at Stansted.

“It is vital for the region that Stansted is able to build on its momentum, and the long-term proposals that we have outlined today will enable us to do this and, more importantly, provide the local community with confidence that future growth can be delivered in a measured and sustainable way.”

The application will also seek permission for extra airfield infrastructure within the current boundary: two new links to the runway, six additional stands on the mid airfield and three extra stands at the north-eastern end of the airport.

Ryanair is Stansted’s biggest airline. Its passenger numbers have grown from 13.2m in 2013 to over 21m this year on more than 140 routes.

Chief executive Michael O’Leary said: “London Stansted Airport continues to grow strongly under the ownership of MAG. Stansted’s potential and spare capacity remains untapped, so it’s vital to make best and efficient use of the existing infrastructure to provide more growth opportunities and greater value for consumers at a time when runway capacity is more constrained in the South East and in light of the challenges Brexit may bring.”

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