Stansted Airport on course for busiest ever year as annual profits climb

Stansted Airport chief executive Andrew Cowan.

Stansted Airport chief executive Andrew Cowan. - Credit: Archant

Annual profits at Stansted Airport have increased by more than 16% it was revealed today as new passenger figures confirmed that it is on course for its busiest ever year.

Manchester Airports Group (MAG), which has owned Stansted since 2013, reported a 12% increase in total earnings to £317.7m for the year to March 31, with revenue 5.5% ahead at £778.8m and passenger numbers 7.0% higher at 51.9m.

Stansted contributed earnings of £133m, up 16.2% on the previous year, with revenue growth in all parts of its business and passenger numbers 11% ahead at 23.2m.

This puts Stansted only just behind Manchester Airport, where the passenger total grew by 5.4% to 23.5m, and confirms its status as the UK’s fastest growing major airport.

MAG said growth at Stansted continued to be driven by low cost carriers such as Rynair but the passenger total had also benefited from the introduction of long haul routes to Las Vegas, Orlando and Cancun, while British Airways had also started using the airport for the first time, serving a number of summer sun destinations in Europe.

Charlie Cornish, MAG chief executive, said: “This has been the fifth consecutive yaer of growth for the group and we have continued to outperform our challenging financial targets and seen record number of passegers using our airports.”

He added that MAG has also made “significant progress” with long-term investment plans, including the completion of an £80m reconfiguration of the terminal building at Stansted and an £11m redevelopment of its main satellite.

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Elsewhere within the MAG group, passenger numbers at East Midlands Airport dipped by 2.2% to 4.5m while the total at Bournemouth Airport was flat at 700,000.

In a separate announcement today, Stansted Airport reported that it handled nearly 2.2m passengers during June, an increase of 6.3% on the same month last year.

This took the rolling annual total for the year to the end of June to nearly 23.5m, in increase of 8.9% compared with the previous 12 months, helped by a record June load factor (a measure of full flights are) of 90.1%

Stansted chief executive Andrew Cowan said that, with the peak summer period still to come, the airport was on course to achieve a passenger total of around 25m for 2016 as a whole, comfortably ahead of the current record for a calendar year – the total of nearly 23.8m achieved in 2007, before the financial crisis and subsequent recession hit.

He added that the June figures meant that Stansted had now added around 6m passengers to its annual total since MAG acquired the airport from the former BAA group three years ago.

Mr Cowan also said that Stansted was well placed for further growth, despite the UK’s vote to leave the European Union, although he added that, with a decision on building a new runway at Heathrow or Gatwick having been further delayed, it was more important than ever for the Government to ensure the country could make the most of its existing airport capacity.

Mr Cowan said that, while many details were yet to the clarified following the vote for Brexit, MAG remained “very positive” in its outlook for Stansted.

“Around 50% of our passenger traffic originates from the UK and 50% from Europe, so we have some natural insulation in terms of volatility,” he said. “We cannot see a scenario in which people will not still want to fly to Europe or from Europe.

“This year we will do 25m passengers but we have capacity for 42m with our single runway,” he added.

However, Mr Cowan said there was need for improved rail journey times and reliability between Stansted and London, and a decision on the new regional rail franchise was also required so that that the airport could continue to work with the operator.