The government’s planned new aviation strategy must have a broadened focus to take in the role of regional airports.

The call came from Manchester Airports Group as it reported a 7.7% rise in passengers using its three airports, with new long-haul powering growth.

Tim Hawkins, chief strategy officer of the operator of Manchester, Stansted and East Midlands airports, said: “Our airports are proving more and more popular. Following a solid summer, they are once again growing strongly through winter, particularly with new long-haul routes being launched in recent months.

“As the government gears up to publish its proposals for a new aviation strategy, it is vital that its focus broadens to considering the role that major airports across the country can play in connecting this country to key global markets.

“Our airports are significant infrastructure assets which, over the coming years, will create jobs in their local communities and help stimulate the national economy.

“We now need to see government commit to improving rail access to these airports to help them drive economic growth.”

Stansted grew 8.7% last month over November 20187 to handle 1.98 million passengers, Manchester was up 7.1% to 1.85 million passengers and East Midlands airport rose 4.7% to 232,000 passengers.

Manchester airport has now seen two successive months of increased passenger numbers, as the ‘backfill’ of slots previously operated by Monarch leads to further growth across the winter season.

This growth was further bolstered by the introduction of flights by Jet Airways to Mumbai. Overall, long-haul traffic to the Caribbean, Middle East and Asia was up 8.8% year-on-year.

The record breaking November saw an additional 158,000 passengers use Stansted, boosted new daily link Emirates flights to Dubai and expanded schedules from Ryanair, Jet2.com and others.

Stansted also won approval to raise the number of passengers it is permitted to serve to 43 million a year in a move which will boost future international long-haul routes to growing markets like China, India and the US.

East Midlands Airport also grew, by 4.7%, to serve 232,000 passengers in November.

All MAG airports are gearing up for busy festive seasons, with Stansted expecting 150,000 more passengers than last Christmas and new year, Manchester 100,000 more and East Midlands 17,000 more.

Stansted chief executive Ken O’Toole said: “The first full month of the winter flight schedules and high airline load factors produced another strong performance in terms of passenger growth at London Stansted, and the busiest November for the airport on record.

“The growth trend will continue over the coming weeks as we prepare for our busiest ever festive getaway when we expect to welcome nearly 1.2 million passengers to the airport between December 21 and January 6.

“To ensure all our passengers enjoy a stress-free start to their holidays we will have additional staff on hand in the terminal supporting colleagues working around the clock over the festive period to provide the best possible service and airport experience.”