Airports see surge in passengers

Airports across the country have recorded a massive surge in passengers numbers following the relaxation of covid rules, but add that numbers are still well below pre-pandemic levels.

The Manchester Airports Group (MAG) of Manchester, East Midlands and London Stansted, dealt with 2.7 million passengers in October.

That figure represented 51 per cent of pre-pandemic traffic compared to the same month two years ago in October 2019.

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However, despite the lower numbers than pre-covid, the figures mark six months of sustained increases in the number of passengers travelling through the MAG airports.

In May 2021, the group only welcomed 260,000 passengers – by contrast, October 2021 is the first month since February 2020 in which both Manchester and London Stansted airports have each served more than one million passengers.

The increase seen in October was boosted by the half-term period and pent-up demand for international travel after more than a year of covid-related disruption.

MAG’s airports served one million passengers during half-term alone, making it the busiest period since the pandemic began.

The number of passengers served in October was 22 per cent higher than in September following a further easing of restrictions on international travel on October 4, which saw PCR tests on replaced by cheaper lateral flow requirements, alongside the removal of all remaining countries from the ‘red list’.

This positive trend is expected to continue in the lead up to the festive season. Leisure travel between the UK and the US resumed on November 8 in a significant moment for the revival of the aviation industry.

Manchester Airport’s Virgin Atlantic services to New York and Orlando restarted on the first day after the relaxation, with the Singapore Airlines service to Houston set to return in early December.

Aer Lingus is also launching new services to New York, Orlando and Boston later this month, having established a new base at Manchester which is already operating flights to Barbados.

London Stansted’s broad range of direct connections across Europe has made its recovery the strongest amongst major UK airports.

Traffic returned to 43 per cent of pre-pandemic levels in September, compared to 38 per cent at London Heathrow, and 24 per cent at London Gatwick, according to Civil Aviation Authority data.

East Midlands Airport, in Castle Donington, has also had its busiest period since passenger operations resumed, and this month served over 200,000 passengers.

East Midlands also recently confirmed that Ryanair would be operating 31 routes from the airport in summer 2022, which will see over 130 flights a week to popular European holiday destinations.

Charlie Cornish, MAG chief executive, said: “These figures demonstrate clearly how the demand for international travel is ready and waiting for when restrictions are eased.

“It is hugely positive to have seen our traffic levels recover month on month, and the removal of costly barriers and uncertainty is giving consumers renewed confidence to get back to travel.

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“We need to see this positive trend continue following the reopening of transatlantic services to the US in early November and as we continue to rebuild Manchester Airport’s network of direct long-haul connections.

“To ensure we continue on this path to a full recovery, we are calling on the Government to set out a clear ambition and plan for removing remaining restrictions on travelling abroad at the earliest opportunity.”