Manchester Airports Group is calling for a new ‘open skies’ deal as the UK prepares to leave the European Union.

The call came as it reported increased passenger numbers for last year by 4.4% to 61.6 million.

The three airports run by MAG served 18.2 million more passengers in 2018 than they did five years ago.

MAG welcomed the publication of technical notices from both the government and the EU in recent months which have set out “clear and positive” commitments to allowing airlines continued access between the UK and the EU, even in a ‘no deal’ scenario.

But UK and EU Brexit negotiators must agree a new long-term arrangement that continues to provide a liberal ‘open skies’ framework to support growth and competition.

MAG chief strategy officer Tim Hawkins said: “The scale of growth we’ve delivered at MAG airports over the last five years reflects the hugely important contribution that they have made to driving economic growth, both nationally and in the communities around our airports.

“We are delighted to be serving 18 million extra customers every year, compared to five years ago – providing passengers with a much wider choice of routes and airlines, and good value fares.

“Much of this growth has been made possible by the single aviation market created by the European Union.

“As we prepare to exit the EU in March, it is vital that UK and EU negotiators commit to agreeing a new ‘open skies’ aviation deal in the interests of both passengers and the economy.”

Manchester, Stansted and East Midlands airports handled 4.2 million passengers in December, a rise of 8.2% over the equivalent month in 2017.

The end of 2018 marked five years of MAG ownership of Stansted. In that time, Stansted passenger numbers have grown by 56.9%, serving ten million more passengers last year than in 2013.

Over the same period Manchester airport grew by 36.7% and East Midlands grew by 12.7%.

The increase has been driven by an expansion in routes supported by the “significant” spare runway capacity the trio have offered at a time when other major airports have been reaching full capacity.

Manchester airport passenger increase of 1.7% to 28.3 million travellers came despite the loss of its seventh biggest airline, Monarch, and was driven by new long-haul routes to Addis Ababa, Mumbai and Seattle – as well as a resurgence of leisure traffic to Turkey.

December saw growth ahead of the year’s trend, 6.7% to two million, as the airport looks ahead to the opening of the first elements of its transformation, which will provide passengers with new state of the art facilities and more capacity.

Stansted handled 8.2% more passengers at 28 million and also saw a record December with numbers up by 10.3% to two million the first time that it has served that level in the month of December.

The performance was boosted by a new daily Emirates link to Dubai and expanded schedules from Ryanair, Jet2.com and other airlines.
East Midlands airport also grew, by 2.6%, to serve 231,000 passengers in December.