The boss of Stansted owner Manchester Airports Group wants to add a second runway at the Essex airport.

MAG chief executive Charlie Cornish told the Financial Times that he wants to develop Stansted along the lines of Manchester, the only UK airport other than Heathrow with two runways.

“You have to be realistic, Stansted is never going to replace Heathrow as the centre point for long-haul flights, but it’s got a great opportunity to evolve more like Manchester,” he said.

Stansted’s proposals to the government’s Airports Commission to assess the best way to increase UK flight capacity include options to build a second runway or to expand to a four-runway hub airport.

But four runways could only work if Heathrow were to close, which appears unlikely, Cornish said, so he is fixing his sights on a two-runway future.

Pakistan carrier Air Blue will launch flights to Lahore next year, and detailed talks are under way with several airlines, with one close to adding another destination, marking the return of long-haul routes after some years.

“Stansted’s got a good opportunity to fly long-haul to the Middle East and then beyond,” Cornish said, citing data that showed three million people travelled past Stansted each year to fly to the Gulf region from Gatwick or Heathrow.

China was also a possible destination from Stansted, he said, while MAG’s long-held aim to see China served from Manchester would happen within two years.