Growth continues at Stansted

PASSENGER numbers at Stansted Airport continued to rise last month despite parent group BAA reporting an overall decline as a result of this year's later Easter break.

PASSENGER numbers at Stansted Airport continued to rise last month despite parent group BAA reporting an overall decline as a result of this year's later Easter break.

Stansted handled 1.78 million passengers during March, up 1.3% compared with the same month last year which included Easter, with the rolling annual total of 22.24 million representing growth of 5%.

This year's Easter weekend is expected to see the airport handled more than 250,000 passengers, with Stansted now offering more than 150 destinations across 34 countries.

“These are very busy times for Stansted and we are anticipating an exceptionally busy Easter, in advance of an even busier summer, as we welcome more new airlines and more new routes,” said Nick Barton, business development and planning director at Stansted.

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“The past six months have seen the welcome return of transatlantic services to New York and the launch of direct services to Washington.

“Blue 1 - the Finnish member airline of the SAS Group - started direct services to the cosmopolitan capital Helsinki last month and FlyMe - the new low fare Swedish airline - launched direct flights to Gothenburg as part of their recent major expansion across Europe.

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“The figures released today, and the projected passenger numbers for this weekend, firmly confirm the important role Stansted plays in offering convenient and affordable access to millions of people each year.”

Total passenger numbers across BAA's seven UK airports last month fell by 1.3% compared with March 2005 to 11.43million. Heathrow was worst affected, with numbers falling by 3.8%, and Gatwick's total was also marginally down, by 0.1%.

Southampton - which, although much smaller than Stansted, is also benefiting from the popularity of low-cost operators - recorded an increase of 5.2% and the group's three Scottish airports saw combined growth of 2.6%, with Glasgow, Edinburgh and Aberdeen all recording increases.

Heathrow's rolling annual total for the 12 months to the end of March was also down, although only by 0.3%, which BAA blamed on factors including a softening in UK economy, fallout from the London bombings last July, the Gate Gourmet catering dispute at BA in late summer and higher oil prices.

However, growth at the group's six other UK operations saw BAA's overall passenger total for the year to March increase by 2% to 144.62 million.

BAA is currently the target of a takeover approach from a consortium led by Spanish infrastructure group Ferrovial. BAA has rejected an offer of 810p a share, saying that the £8.75 billion valuation “did not begin to reflect the value of BAA's unique portfolio of airport assets”.

According to unconfirmed reports, however, BAA is preparing plans for a special dividend of up to £1billion in order to retain shareholder support in the event of the consortium, or a rival bidder, coming in with a higher offer, in the region of 900p a share.

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