Manchester airport reports worst results in its history

MAG and five airlines will challenge the government over the transparency of the ‘traffic light’ system

<p>All quiet: control tower at Manchester airport</p>

All quiet: control tower at Manchester airport

The UK’s largest airport group lost over £1m per day in the year ending 31 March 2021, as passenger numbers collapsed by 89 per cent.

Manchester Airports Group (MAG) lost £374m over the year – attributed to “maintaining high fixed-cost airport operations with such significant reductions in passenger-related income”.

The firm went into the coronavirus pandemic as the owner of two of the UK’s four-busiest airports: Manchester itself, and Stansted in Essex.

The group also owns East Midlands airport in Leicestershire.

The only bright spots were an increase in cargo operations at Stansted and East Midlands of 19 per cent and 31 per cent respectively.

MAG’s chief executive, Charlie Cornish, said: “These annual results paint a very different picture to previous years, reflecting the true impact of what has been the most difficult 12 months in our history. We saw international travel come to a near- standstill.

“We have had to take a series of decisive, and often difficult actions to protect the future of our business.

“As we look ahead, I am confident of the strong recovery our business and our sector can make, as well as the critical role our airports will play in ensuring a full recovery of the UK economy.”

The results were announced on the eve of a court case in which MAG and five airlines will challenge the government over the transparency of the “traffic light” system that controls international arrivals to the UK.

The airport group is leading proceedings in which it will argue that the government has failed to  set out how it categorises countries between the green, amber and red lists – the last two of which require quarantine.

At present very few locations are on the green list – with Portugal having been removed just two weeks after it granted quarantine-free status.

Mr Cornish said: “Our recovery has so far been stifled by the Government’s traffic light restrictions on international travel, which are significantly more onerous than other countries.

“Without sight or understanding of this decision-making process, the aviation sector – already the worst hit part of the UK economy as a result of the pandemic – is unable to plan its recovery, as countries are added and removed from the safe travel list with no obvious logic, forewarning or consultation with the industry.”

The transport secretary, Grant Shapps, has rejected any criticism of the government’s decisions. Speaking to BBC Today, he said: “There’s no circumstance in which there is not a scientific basis and I encourage people to look at the way that the Joint Biosecurity Centre do this by looking at the information that they have, in fact, put on the website.”

The MAG results were revealed a few hours before Mr Shapps is expected to announce that vaccination can replace quarantine for arrivals from amber list countries.

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