Ryanair has signed a 10-year deal with Stansted that it says will lift passenger numbers to the airport by almost half to more than 20 million a year.
Europe’s biggest discount airline, which attracted 13.2 million customers to Stansted last year, has placed the airport at the centre of its expansion plan. Its chief executive, Michael O’Leary, said yesterday that Stansted, owned by Manchester Airports Group (MAG), would account for a quarter of Ryanair’s expansion between now and 2019.
The agreement ends a long-running stand-off between Ryanair and Stansted and comes after MAG agreed to a package of lower costs and improved facilities at the airport.
“This sort of growth can only be delivered on lower costs,” Mr O’Leary said, adding that the deal was Ryanair’s “most transformational” for years.
“It’s indicative of the new regime at Stansted and MAG that within a period of six months of taking over they are signing an aggressive and dramatic growth deal,” he added.
The deal follows an accord with Ryanair’s low-cost rival EasyJet, which aimed to double that airline’s annual passenger count at Stansted to 6 million within five years.
Stansted is Ryanair’s main base while the airline is the airport’s main customer – accounting for more than two-thirds of its passengers.
Spain’s Ferrovial sold Stansted to MAG for £1.5bn in March following seven years of decline in which the airport’s passenger numbers tumbled from 23.8 million to 17.5 million.
Ken O’Toole, MAG’s chief commercial officer, said the deal showed that “competition really does work”.
Ryanair also announced new routes for 2014: to Bordeaux, Dortmund, Lisbon and Rabat, bringing it total routes from Stansted to 120, representing about 2,000 flights a week.