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Record year for Stansted Airport as passenger total nears 26m

PUBLISHED: 11:17 11 January 2018 | UPDATED: 11:36 11 January 2018

The main terminal at Stansted Airport.
Picture: Stansted Airport

The main terminal at Stansted Airport. Picture: Stansted Airport


London Stansted Airport has confirmed it busiest ever calendar year, despite a dip in numbers during December following the cancellation of hundreds of flights by its biggest operator, Ryanair.

London Stansted Airport chief executie Ken O’Toole.London Stansted Airport chief executie Ken O’Toole.

Last month’s total of just over 1.8m passengers – 1.2% down on a year earlier but still the second-busiest December on record for the airport – pushed the total for the year to 25.9m, an increase of 6.5% on 2016.

The record-breaking performance was achieved with the help of 11 new routes launched during the year with Stansted now serving more than 190 destinations in 38 countries, including more scheduled connections to Europe than any other airport in the world apart from Munich.

The airport’s top five destination countries in terms of passenger growth year-on-year were Spain (up by 478,000), France (382,000), Denmark (281,000), Turkey (222,000) and Bulgaria (134,000).

Among individual airports, the top five for growth compared with 2016 were Copenhagen (up 263,000), Oslo (240,000), Hamburg (180,000), Toulouse (153,000) and Sofia (137,000).

An Emirates Boeing 777-300 ER aircraft.An Emirates Boeing 777-300 ER aircraft.

Despite its cancellations towards the end of the year, Ryanair operated a substantially increased programme overall during 2017 which also saw the start of flights from Stansted by leisure carrier

The year also saw announcements that Primera Air will start direct flights to New York, Boston and Toronto from April and May 2018 and that Emirates is to start a new direct service from Stansted to Dubai in June, with onward access to destinations across the world including Shanghai, Sydney, and Hong Kong.

Ken O’Toole, chief executive at Stansted, said: “The last year has been a very busy and exciting time at London Stansted with passenger numbers and the range of destinations directly available from the airport both reaching all-time highs.

“The positive passenger growth was driven by increased choice from many of our airline partners, particularly Ryanair who experienced another strong year, and the very successful opening of’s first base in the south of England back in March.

An artist’s impression shows how the transformed departures terminal at Stansted Airport will look when work is completeAn artist’s impression shows how the transformed departures terminal at Stansted Airport will look when work is complete

“In 2018, our aim is to continue growing our passenger numbers and provide even more choice, so we were absolutely delighted to announce just before Christmas that Emirates will begin operating a new service to Dubai from Stansted in June. This excellent addition to our route network comes on top of the very exciting news that Primera Air will also launch direct flights to New York, Boston and Toronto from April and May this year.

“These great successes are just the start, not the end, of our long-haul ambitions with more routes to the USA and new services to China and India key targets for us.”

He added: “As we are now serving more passengers than at any time in the airport’s history, it’s imperative that we plan how we can keep pace with demand and invest in developing quality, good value facilities to ensure we do all we can to enhance the passenger experience.”

Work had already started on a project to add more check-in desks, extra seating and more car park spaces, said Mr O’Toole, and he confirmed that a planning application to increase the annual cap on passenger numbers at Stansted from its current level of 35m will be submitted “shortly”.

The Stop Stansted Expansion campaign group is opposing the application, pointing to Department for Transport forecasts for air passenger growth which suggest that, if the new runway planned at Heathrow is completed in the next 10 years, passenger numbers at Stansted could actually decline to around 22m in 2030, with the present 35m cap not being reached until 2043.

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