Manchester Airports Group reports massive losses after 'most difficult 12 months in its history'

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The Manchester Airports Group has reported losses of a whopping £374m for the last financial year - due to an almost 90 per cent drop in passenger numbers.

With restrictions on international travel in place in some form for the full 12 months, passenger numbers at MAG’s three airports fell by 89 per cent year-on-year.

MAG kept its airports open throughout the pandemic to support essential travel and freight movements, including critical medical supplies such as protective equipment and pharmaceutical supplies.

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Maintaining high fixed-cost airport operations with such significant reductions in passenger-related income has meant that MAG recorded an overall loss of £374m for 2020/21.

The aviation industry has been badly hit by the pandemicThe aviation industry has been badly hit by the pandemic
The aviation industry has been badly hit by the pandemic

Increases in online shopping and the reduction in bellyhold freight capacity across the UK helped drive the Group’s cargo operations at East Midlands and London Stansted Airport throughout the pandemic, with cargo volumes increasing 19 per cent and 31 per cent respectively.

MAG acted quickly to secure its financial position in the early months of the pandemic.

Alongside programmes that reduced operating costs by more than £183.4m, it strengthened its cash position with £300m of additional equity funding from its shareholders and £400m from the sale of the non-essential assets in the Group’s property portfolio.

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While MAG has made use of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, this only covered a small proportion of the Group’s total costs.

Charlie Cornish of MAGCharlie Cornish of MAG
Charlie Cornish of MAG

The results come as MAG prepares to face the Government in court tomorrow to challenge the lack of transparency around how Ministers are making decisions about the traffic light system for international travel.

The proceedings are led by MAG, with airlines Ryanair, IAG, Virgin Atlantic, TUI and easyJet all supporting as interested parties.

The UK’s largest group of airports will make its case to the court that the Government needs to set out how it categorises countries between the green, amber and red lists.

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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 – says it 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.

MAG CEO 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 with passenger numbers collapsing to less than 10 per cent of normal levels, and 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. Even in the last few weeks, we have taken tentative steps forward with some important markets now on the Government’s green list.

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“However, 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.

“After more than a year of disruption, consumers deserve more clarity so they can book with confidence. And as an industry, we need to understand how the Government’s traffic light system works so that we can make the right decisions for the future."

He added: “We know there is demand for international travel, and we know that it can happen safely."

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