Strong passenger growth drives increase in annual earnings at Stansted Airport

The main terminal building at Stansted Airport.

The main terminal building at Stansted Airport. - Credit: Archant

Market-leading growth in passenger numbers has contributed to a near-30% increase in annual earnings at Stansted Airport.

Manchester Airports Group (MAG), which acquired Stansted two years ago from the former BAA company, today reported group-wide earnings of £283.6million for the year to March 31, an increase of 17.2% on the previous 12 months.

The equivalent figure for Stansted, which is before interest charges, taxation and depreciation, grew by 28.8% to £114.5m, boosted by a 16.1% increase in passenger numbers to 20.92m.

Revenue at Stansted grew by 10.9% to £271.7m, out of a group-wide total of £738.4m, 10% up on the previous year.

MAG, which also owns Manchester, East Midlands and Bournemoth airports, said the combined growth in passenger numbers at Stansted and Manchester airports last year exceeded that of Heathrow and Gatwick combined.

The “exceptional” traffic growth at Stansted reflected a range of factors including new long-term agreements with major airlines, product expansion in areas such as lounges and fast track (as part of a major reconfiguration of the main terminal) and further investment in car parking capacity.

“In the two years since MAG acquired London Stansted, the airport has evolved significantly through the introduction of over 30 new routes and the addition of approximately 4million passengers, the same contribution to passenger growth as Heathrow and Gatwick airports put together,” the group said.

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With the terminal transformation project now “substantially complete”, further benefits from the investment would be reflected in the results for 2015-16.

Future passenger numbers would also benefit from this month’s return of long-haul services to Stansted with the start of peak summer flights by Thomas Cook to Orlando, Las Vegas and Cancun, which were expected to be the first in a growing long-haul offer from Stansted over the coming years, MAG added.

Andrew Harrison, managing director at Stansted, said the airport had achieved double-digit percentage growth in passenger numbers in each of the last 10 months of the year.

While this largely reflected the increase in flights achieved through new agreements with existing users, the reconfiguration of the airport – bringing it into line with the needs of air travellers, which had changed markedly since the terminal opened more than 20 years – should also help to attract new airlines.

Mr Harrison said the passenger mix at the airport was also changing, with the number of business travellers having been increasing at a rate of around 20% in recent months – ahead of the overall rate of growth.

This had been helped by an increase in double daily services, enabling business people to travel out and back in a day - with Ryanair alone operating at this frequency at least to 35 different cities.

With Thomson already due to join Thomas Cook in operating trans-Atlantic leisure flights next summer, Mr Harrison said he was confident that more long-haul routes would follow.

And, with cities such as New York being in demand from business as well as leisure travellers, there was potential for long-haul operations by full service airlines as well as specialist leisure operators.

Mr Harrison added that the number of people employed on the airport site had increased from 10,200 two years ago to 11,600.

“These results are great news for Stansted, and also great news for East Anglia as a region,” he added.