MAG delivers strong summer recovery with passenger numbers climbing to 84% of pre-Covid levels

·       MAG served 30.5 million passengers between April and September up from 6.6 million over the same period last year

·       Group recorded an operating profit of £22.8 million and revenue of £538.8 million

·       Positive performance has been driven by return of wide range of airlines and destinations

·       Group’s extensive recruitment campaign means staffing levels are now at or above pre-Covid levels

MAG is well-placed to continue its strong recovery, as the UK’s largest group of airports revealed a positive performance in the first half of the financial year.

Figures for the period April-September show that MAG (Manchester Airports Group), which owns and operates Manchester, London Stansted and East Midlands Airports, served 30.5 million passengers during what was the first full summer season since the removal of travel Covid-19 travel restrictions.

That represented 84% of pre-Covid traffic and compared with 6.6 million passengers handled during the same period in 2021.

For the first six months of the financial year, MAG recorded an operating profit of £22.8 million, compared with losses of £75.7 million during the same period last year. Revenues increased by £158.7 million to £538.8 million.

MAG’s positive performance across all of its airports was driven by the reintroduction of the vast majority of its airlines’ pre-pandemic routes. Short-haul travel at times exceeded 2019 traffic levels, while there was a strong recovery in direct long-haul routes, particularly to North America and the Middle East. MAG’s decision not to impose capacity restrictions on its airlines also contributed to the strong performance, allowing carriers to meet passenger demand over the summer period.

Following an extensive recruitment campaign, service levels at MAG’s airports are now at - or above -those delivered before Covid. Looking ahead to next year, the Group’s airports are continuing to recruit new staff to be able to deliver further improvements in customer service.

While wider economic factors, including the cost of living, could dampen growth in demand for international travel over the coming months, the Group remains confident its positive recovery will continue.

Charlie Cornish, MAG CEO, said: “These half-year results demonstrate the significant progress our business has made over the summer months, and are testament to the hard work and dedication of teams across MAG.

“The uplift in passenger numbers we have seen reflects the strong demand for international travel since restrictions were lifted, with more than 30 million passengers travelling through our airports between April and September.

“After a challenging start to the summer season, I am pleased to have welcomed more than 2,000 new colleagues into the business and want to assure all our customers we are focussed on delivering a really positive experience for the remainder of the year, and throughout 2023.

“As the UK navigates a period of economic uncertainty, we will be working closely with our airlines to ensure our airports offer passengers an excellent choice of affordable travel options.

“Throughout the first half of this year, MAG has also continued to play an industry leading role in the drive towards a net zero aviation sector, including commitments we made to support the delivery of  the Government’s Jet Zero Strategy, alongside the landmark partnership we recently announced with HyNet, to secure the future of hydrogen fuel at Manchester Airport.

“Following the historic agreement by the global aviation sector to reach net zero by 2050 at this year’s ICAO General Assembly, MAG remains committed to playing a leading role in realising this shared global ambition.”

Following a period of disruption at Manchester Airport in the early summer period, operational performance has improved significantly. In November, 97% of passengers passed through security in fewer than 15 minutes. Data for the month also show that 99% of passengers at both London Stansted and East Midlands Airports cleared security in less than 15 minutes.

MAG has now completed its Group-wide recruitment drive, which started in late 2021. Since then, more than 2,000 new colleagues have joined the business. Of the total figure, more than 1,000 new starters have joined as Security Officers across the Group.

Seasonal recruitment cycles are continuing across the business, ensuring that all three of MAG’s airports are well resourced as they approach next summer’s peak.

Manchester Airport served 14.3 million passengers between April and September, up from 2.7 million across the same period last year. Throughout the summer season, the airport was focused on improving the experience it delivered to passengers following a period of operational disruption, having now recruiting the optimal number of security staff across its three terminals.

Direct long-haul routes from Manchester to destinations including North America, the Middle East and the Caribbean continue to prove popular with passengers. In September, Emirates announced it would re-commence its third daily service to Dubai - returning the airline to its pre-pandemic capacity at Manchester. In August, Hainan Airlines resumed its service to Beijing, which prior to the pandemic provided direct connectivity between the North and mainland China, helping to support international trade and wider economic growth.

With three US routes having returned to Manchester over the summer, the airport is engaging with airline partners to secure the resumption of services to other US destinations and the airport also has ambitions to introduce other new long-haul routes going forward.

London Stansted’s recovery was amongst the strongest in the UK, owing to its extensive low-cost European network. The airport served 14 million passengers in the first six months of the year, up from 3.5 million last year. The airport delivered a strong operational performance throughout the summer season, with the 99% of passengers passing through security in less than 15 minutes on a consistent basis.

During the summer, Emirates returned to London Stansted with a daily service to Dubai, and looking to the future, London Stansted has ambitions to expand its long-haul network.

In October, the airport published a route development report which outlined the potential economic regional benefits of creating routes direct to destinations including Boston and Singapore. The report was launched at an event attended by key stakeholders including airlines and businesses from across Cambridge and the East of England. The report showed that the East of England could see investment into the region increase by £185 million through the creation of direct routes to San Francisco and Boston.

East Midlands Airport served 2.2 million passengers between April and September, up from 0.4 million in 2021 – representing the highest year on year increase in traffic across MAG.

The airport’s cargo operation continued to show a strong performance, handling more than 200,000 tonnes of freight in the first six months of this year.

The true value of the airport’s cargo operation was shown through research by York Aviation published in June 2022. Figures showed that the operation from East Midlands connected UK trade to 185 cities around the globe, with the value of goods handled 1.9 times higher than the average per tonne of cargo travelling through other UK airports.

Throughout this period, MAG has continued to play an industry-leading role in work to decarbonise aviation. To support the publication of the Government’s Jet Zero Strategy in July, the Group issued five new Jet Zero pledges – with commitments across education, research, sustainable fuels and air space modernisation.

In a landmark moment, Manchester Airport recently announced its partnership with HyNet – which is aimed at making it the first UK airport with a direct supply of hydrogen fuel from the mid-2030s. This means the UK’s third largest airport is making progress towards the supply of Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) and hydrogen – which will both play a vital role in allowing airlines to operate low and zero emissions flights in the future. MAG’s commitment on SAF was announced last year in partnership with Fulcrum Bioenergy UK.

MAG welcomed the international climate agreement made at the 41st ICAO General Assembly earlier this year. This global commitment from the aviation sector to reach net zero by 2050 was a significant milestone in the industry’s decarbonisation efforts, and MAG remains committed to playing its part in helping to achieve that goal.

MAG also recently  published its annual CSR Report for 2021/22 in which it announced a new wholesale commitment to creating the next generation of aviation talent through the MAG Connect programme. The scheme is aiming to support 60,000 young people through the Group’s Aerozone facilities and 7,500 job seekers through its onsite Academies by 2025.

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