Spare runway capacity at Manchester and Stansted airports should be considered in the government’s aviation strategy planning.
The call came from the head of parent company Manchester Airports Group as both airports reported strong passenger growth in January.
MAG believes that the government’s northern industrial strategy and forthcoming aviation strategy should take full advantage of the north-west hub’s runway capacity.
This would promote international connections through the airport, as the UK needs to make best use of the limited runway capacity it has over the next decade.
Manchester continues to have “ample capacity” to grow further on its two full length runways as it becomes an alternative entry point to the UK over London.
MAG-owner Stansted is also seen as a viable option for growth ahead of a third runway opening at Heathrow.
Chief executive, Charlie Cornish, said: “MAG operates the country’s two biggest airports with spare runway capacity.
“Airlines are seeing the value of the capacity we offer and our double-digit growth is testament to our airports’ strong appeal.
“We now need the government to prioritise through its industrial and aviation strategies the question of how we are going to make best use of the runway capacity we have in this country, by improving access to airports with capacity which are now growing significantly.
“Airports like London Stansted and Manchester can take the strain over the next decade and help deliver the vision of a Global Britain.
Manchester airport broke into the top 20 European airport rankings following growth of 17.7% in January.
The airport handled 250,000 more passengers in the month than in January 2016, bringing the total up to 1.6 million.
The January growth means that the airport has handled 25.9 million passengers in the last 12 months, enough to break into the European top 20, displacing Stockholm.
The airport is now just behind Oslo and Palma in the European rankings.
The move means that the UK joins Spain as one of two European countries with three airports in the European top 20.
Stansted saw passenger numbers rise by 5% year-on-year to give an annual rolling total of 24.4 million.
Manchester airport was last week identified by both Transport for the North and the Northern Powerhouse Partnership as a strategic infrastructure asset that will play a key role in rebalancing the UK economy.
“For Manchester to enter the top 20 airports of Europe is a significant milestone and puts us amongst the leading gateways on the continent, in terms of total passenger numbers, the mix of destinations available and the aircraft operating on those routes,” Cornish said.
MAG’s other two UK airports – East Midlands and Bournemouth – also both saw double-digit passenger growth in January.
East Midlands airport grew 14.6% to almost 220,000 as more passengers flew to the Canary Islands for winter sun.
Bournemouth Airport’s 11.6% growth to 33,000 passengers was driven by the popularity of Gran Canaria and Lanzarote, as demand to the Canaries grew 29%.
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