Manchester Airport’s growing importance to the UK’s global growth prospects was today underlined as it revealed a double-digit hike in annual passenger numbers.
The gateway has added 2.7 million passengers over the past 12 months, representing growth of 11.4%, in a sign that airlines and passengers alike are increasingly looking to fly from the UK’s third busiest airport.
In March alone, 1.9 million passengers flew through the airport’s three terminals – a 10.1% year-on-year increase, despite Easter not falling until April. This means the airport has now seen three years of consecutive growth.
The airport’s strong performance has been enough to place it as the second fastest growing large airport in Europe in the most recent analysis from Airport Councils Europe. Among airports serving more than 25 million passengers per year, only Moscow Sheremetyevo is growing faster.
Manchester’s growth has been delivered across the board, with an additional 1.1m extra passengers being flown to Spain alone. After Spain, the next biggest short haul growth has been to France (+261k), Germany (+228k) and Italy (+198k).
And the gateway’s pivotal role in connecting the North – and wider UK– to the world’s most important markets was demonstrated by strong growth in long haul traffic.
Manchester more than doubled the number of passengers flown to the United States, with new routes added to Los Angeles, Boston and Houston during the year.
The 12 month period was rounded-off with the launch of the first ever direct service from anywhere outside of London to San Francisco, with Virgin Atlantic. Thomas Cook Airlines will also start flying the route in May.
The importance of this connectivity was underlined by a delegation of 30 tech sector leaders travelling on the inaugural San Francisco service as part of a trade mission to Silicon Valley, where they met with potential investors and partner companies, as well as touring tech giants like LinkedIn and Salesforce.
The mission was waved off by trade and investment minister Greg Hands, who said the service helped ensure“the Northern Powerhouse is now firmly part of the global economic race.”
In the long haul market, strong growth was also seen to Pakistan (+112k) and China (+77k), with the latter being boosted by the launch of a direct route to Beijing, with Hainan Airlines.
Ken O’Toole, Manchester Airport CEO, said: “March rounded off a strong year of growth at Manchester, meaning we are now one of the fastest growing airports not just in the UK, but in Europe as a whole.
“It was particularly pleasing to end the month with the launch of our San Francisco service, which is a route we have long coveted and one that business and leisure passengers have been calling for some time.
“It was the latest in a long list of key long haul routes we have added over the past 12 months, ensuring we are connecting the North with key markets across the world.
“That is on top of extremely strong growth in flights to short haul locations, meaning Manchester has one of the most varied route networks in the world.
“As the summer season starts and the Easter holidays are upon us, we are looking forward to continuing growth and further additions to our list of destinations.”
The growth across the board at Manchester, and to Spain in particular, can be attributed to more seats on more planes being made available to passengers wanting to fly to popular destinations year-round, with people choosing Spain for summer and winter sun as an alternative to North African destinations which have become less popular this year.
The highest growth destinations in the past twelve months were Alicante, Malaga, Barcelona, Amsterdam and Tenerife. Meanwhile Long haul growth has been driven by new routes, including the new direct service to Beijing with Hainan Airlines, and a new route to Houston with Singapore Airlines. Increased capacity to Islamabad has contributed to a surge in traffic to Pakistan.
March also saw Virgin Atlantic launch their service to Boston whilst Royal Air Maroc also commenced flights to Casablanca.
Due to the extra demand, aircraft movements were also up last month by 11%, with more than 15,000 planes taking off and landing on the airport’s two full length runways.
Cargo also saw a boost with 9,933 tonnes carried – an increase of 11% on March 2016. It equates to a 13% year on year increase with the annual rolling tonnage now at 116,468.