Stansted growth fastest in Europe

Low-cost airlines are helping drive up passenger numbers and profits at Stansted Airport.The airport yesterday reported an operating profit of £43.1m for the year to March 31 – a 14pc increase on a year earlier.

Low-cost airlines are helping drive up passenger numbers and profits at Stansted Airport.

The airport yesterday reported an operating profit of £43.1m for the year to March 31 – a 14pc increase on a year earlier.

The number of air travellers was up 19pc at 16.7 million making it Europe's fastest growing airport for the third year running.

Of those passengers more than two million were from East Anglia, making it the most popular airport for the region's travellers.

In comparison 431,420 air travellers used Norwich International between April 2002 and March 2003.

Growth was led by the development of new routes by low-cost carriers Ryanair and easyJet, which acquired Go.

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Stansted will be expanded still further after the airport was given

the all-clear to increase capacity to

25 million passengers a year.

Owner BAA is spending £750m over the next 11 years improving facilities.

The first phase of this was the opening last year of new slip roads off the M11 to the airport. And £500,000 has been spent on improving public transport links.

But the airport has been keen to distance itself from the Government's consultation on extra runway capacity in the South East.

The consultation paper raised the possibility of three extra runways – which would take capacity far in excess of 25 million.

The plans are being fiercely opposed by many people living near the airport and Andy Mears, Stansted Airport finance director, said BAA was committed to growing the airport in a responsible manner.

"We have continued our succe" he said.

"We officially opened our third satellite building last June and the M11 slips became fully operational in the latter part of the year.

"Looking ahead after 28 months of consultation with the local community on our plans for growth beyond about 15 million passengers a year we received a positive decision to allow development to serve 25 million passengers a year. We will continue our commitment to grow the airport in a responsible manner."

Stansted's strong performance helped boost parent company BAA's profits to £524m for the year to March 31. That was up 3.8pc on a year earlier. Passenger numbers were 127.7 million, a rise of 4.7pc.

As well as Stansted BAA has Heathrow, Gatwick, Southampton, Glasgow, Edinburgh and Aberdeen airports.