Simon Calder's Q&A: Manchester airport buys Stansted

 

Why does Manchester want another airport – surely it’s already got one?

Manchester Airports Group (MAG) actually owns three airports already: Manchester, East Midlands and Bournemouth. MAG is a fascinating organisation, because it’s local-authority owned: the majority by Manchester City Council, the remaining 45 per cent by the other nine boroughs of Greater Manchester. Yet MAG has much bigger ambitions: it tried to buy Gatwick in 2009, and has now gained control of Stansted. In airports, scale is everything, and London is the world hub of aviation – so Manchester wanted to be part of it. The deal involves an Australian fund, Industry Funds Management, taking just over one-third of the expanded company, and getting half the voting rights.

Put the deal into perspective

Manchester Airports Group has paid roughly the same for Stansted as Gatwick’s new owners paid for an airport which is arguably, from an investment point of view, probably 50 per cent more attractive. A year ago Stansted lost its number three position to Manchester, in terms of passenger numbers, so this is an ironic turn of events; if Manchester aims to restore Stansted to the days when it was the fastest growing airport in Europe, it can do so only at its own expense.

There’s one really huge airport in the UK, Heathrow, which has as many passengers than the next biggest three put together – Gatwick, Manchester and Stansted. Stansted occupies a beautiful building, but one with awkward rail links – the journey by train from central London has actually significantly slowed down in the 20 years since the rail line opened.

Of the big four London airports – the other three being Heathrow, Gatwick and Luton – Stansted is the furthest from the centre, and also furthest from the key road and rail arteries. It’s only a little bit unfair to describe it as an airport people use because they have to. Manchester Airports Group will be seeking to change all that.

What will passengers notice?

In the short term, nothing. Stansted is a well-run airport operating at about half its capacity, which means that it is usually uncrowded and tranquil. Longer term, it will have to get much busier if Manchester Airports Group is to realise a reasonable return on investment. The new owners will try to grab traffic initially on short-haul routes from Gatwick and Luton, partly through enticing financial deals - but also by promising excellent customer service. There should be more flights to more interesting places – and a wider range of airlines. At present three out of four flights at Stansted are on Ryanair.

Experience suggests it is unhealthy for any airport to be so dependent on a single airline. The new owners are likely to be talking to easyJet to try to persuade Britain’s biggest low-cost carrier to move more planes to Stansted, and trying to entice every other large European airline. Looking further afield: until now, there hasn’t been any mileage in Stansted aggressively seeking long-haul routes and business travellers, because it would be doing so against the interests of Heathrow – the dominant partner in the business formerly known as BAA. A few long-haul airlines have come and gone, including the business-class only airlines, MaxJet and Eos, as well as Air Asia X to Malaysia. But if Stansted can find the right airline that needs a fast track to the London market, Heathrow and Gatwick will take notice.

Will we see a new route from Manchester to Stansted?

No. British Airways, Eastern Airways and Air Berlin all tried to fly profitably between Stansted and Manchester and abandoned the idea.

And does this influence where another runway will be built in the London area?

The possibility of a second runway at Stansted will certainly be in the plans of MAG, but the airport can basically double in the number of passengers handled before it reachest capacity.

 

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

SThree: Graduate Recruitment Resourcer

£20000 - £22500 per annum + OTE £30K: SThree: SThree Group have been well esta...

Ashdown Group: Treasury Assistant - Accounts Assistant - London, Old Street

£24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Ashdown Group: Business Analyst - Financial Services - City, London

£50000 - £55000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Business Analyst - Financial Service...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + OTE £45K: SThree: At SThree, we like to be differe...

Day In a Page

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence