Airport debate soars

THE NORTH: Manchester Airport
THE NORTH: Manchester Airport
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Business leaders have called for the expansion of Heathrow Airport. But Manchester has hit back. David Nowell reports.

Manchester Airport has hit back in the wake of a major campaign to push for the expansion of Heathrow.

Bosses at the north west airport were speaking after calls by Chambers of Commerce across the country for the expansion of the London airport.

Airport chiefs say Manchester Airport is the true Northern Gateway.

They say that with more than 200 destinations available, passengers are choosing Manchester rather than use airports in the South East of England.

The campaign highlights the wide range of low cost, full service and long haul flights from Manchester that are available to passengers living and working in the North.

Andrew Cowan, Chief Operating Officer for MAG, owners of Manchester Airport, commented: “Twenty-two million customers will use Manchester Airport in the next year, an increase of more than four million since 2010.

“Manchester is a true global gateway and has a growing network of short and long haul routes that connects to Asia, Africa, North America, Europe and beyond.

“This campaign aims to make sure passengers know they can fly from Manchester to anywhere in the world.

“As the destinations available from Manchester have grown over the last few years, we’ve seen a strong increase in passenger numbers at the airport.

“But we’re still seeing too many passengers make the long trek to use congested and expensive airports in the South, when better options are available right on their doorstep.”

The North and Western Lancashire Chamber of Commerce added its weight to the Chambers’ open letter last week.

Signed by 23 Chambers representing over 40,000 businesses from across the UK, the letter is a strong endorsement from British business for an expanded Heathrow.

The Chambers said that only an expanded Heathrow is capable of keeping all of Britain at the heart of the global economy by continuing to put on the flights that drive tourism, inward investment and connect British business to the fast growing markets in Asia and South America.

But Mr Cowan responded: “More than 20 million people and 60 per cent of the UK’s businesses are located within two hours of Manchester Airport, and every month as we add more and more direct flights to a whole host of new destinations around the world, the case for flying from Manchester grows ever stronger.

“We also have spare runway capacity today and significant room to grow in the future and making best use of what is already available is critical given the arrival of a new runway in this country is at least 10 to 15 years away.”

Manchester has continued to grow its passenger numbers over the last year and is fast approaching its peak figure of 22m, which was last reached in 2007.

Manchester is the only two-runway airport in the UK outside of Heathrow and its international credentials have been underlined by the progress of the Airport City scheme, which will be the focal point of Greater Manchester’s Enterprise Zone.

Manchester serves both long haul and short haul needs with routes on offer including Washington DC, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Singapore, Moscow, Atlanta, New York and Chicago.

Manchester’s catchment area extends north through the Lake District into Scotland; east across Yorkshire and the North East; south to Birmingham and the Midlands; and west into Merseyside and Wales.

Additionally, Manchester Airport will soon be the home to the only direct route to China outside of London, when a Hong Kong service launches on December 8.

Manchester Airport makes a significant contribution to the region’s economic performance providing a GVA (gross value added) of over £1.5 billion.

It already employs over 20,000 people on site and is looking to add a further 20,000 through the Airport City project and the Greater Manchester Enterprise Zone.