Connections from across the UK to long-haul routes will be the backbone of new trading links after Brexit, according to Manchester Airports Group.

The message from the parent company of Manchester, Stansted and East Midlands airports came as it reported a 3.8% rise in passenger throughput to 35.7 million in the half year to September 30.

Adjusted operating profit rose by 2.1% to £167.8 million despite passengers using Manchester airport being unchanged year-on-year at 16.6 million. Group revenue increased 8.3% to £508.5 million over the summer half-year period.

Stansted was the star performer with 8.9% growth to 15.9 million passengers, while East Midlands saw a 0.3% decline to 3.2 million.

Further expansion is planned following local council approval to raise the ‘planning cap’ at the Essex airport from 35 million passengers to 43 million a year.

The decision will enable Stansted to make best use of its spare runway capacity over the next decade at a time when other London airports are approaching full capacity, according to MAG.

Meanwhile, the first phases of a £1 billion transformation at Manchester airport will open on time in spring 2019.

Group CEO Charlie Cornish referred to new routes from Stansted to Dubai and from Manchester to Mumbai and Addis Ababa as “the kind of links that will form the backbone of the country’s new trading links when Britain leaves the European Union next year”.

He added: “At MAG we stand ready to connect all parts of the UK to key long-haul markets.

“As the UK prepares to leave the European Union, we have always been clear that the best result for the aviation industry would be a deal which preserves the liberal flying freedoms and competitive approach to the aviation market that have driven so much important connectivity and economic growth across the continent over the last couple of decades.

“However, we have also welcomed the publication of technical notices from both the UK and the EU which have set out a clear and positive commitment to allowing airlines continued access between the UK and the EU, even in a no deal scenario.

“The recent signing of an aviation agreement between the UK and the US is further positive news for passengers.”

Cornish described MAG’s “dynamic and innovative approach” as helping take passenger numbers through the 60 million a year milestone across its three airports in September.

“Our airports are nationally significant assets with the ability to deliver the aviation capacity the UK needs in the coming decade, and their continued growth is being supported by significant investment by MAG,” he added.

“As plans for east-west rail connectivity in the north reach a critical milestone, we continue to make the case for the government’s forthcoming aviation strategy to focus on connecting passengers to the airports up and down the country quicker and more easily.

“Northern Powerhouse Rail will not just bring the cities of the north closer together, it will also join them all, via Manchester airport, to a range of global cities unrivalled in the north.”