Stansted airport passenger numbers soar despite signs of weakness elsewhere

Stansted has recovered from the Covid pandemic “faster than any other London airport” according to its boss. Despite concerns from other airport figures about weakness of demand, Stansted’s managing director Gareth Powell told The Independent that July 2023 was the third-busiest month in its history.

It comes as Ryanair, the biggest airline at Stansted, revealed it carried a record number of passengers across Europe in July: 18.7 million.

Stansted handled an average of 90,322 passengers per day in July this year, up from 88,709 in the same month in 2022. The figure was beaten only by August in the two years immediately before the pandemic: 2018 and 2019.

In contrast, London Heathrow airport last week reported in its half-year results that passenger numbers remain “consistently below pre-pandemic levels”.

Mr Powell said: “London Stansted is committed to being the airport of choice for everyone living and working in our catchment area. That means providing the best possible choice of destinations – including the most direct connections to Europe of any UK airport – and at the best possible value.”

The daily increase equates to an extra eight fully loaded Boeing 737-800 aircraft.

The airport, northeast of London, is part of the Manchester Airports Group. In 2019, both Stansted and Manchester airports handled around 29 million passengers, compared with 47 million for Gatwick and 81 million for Heathrow.

Stansted is dominated by Ryanair, with Jet2 building a significant presence. Both airlines are expanding, and have not suffered the same operational issues as their rival, easyJet, at London Gatwick – which has cancelled 1,700 flights in July, August and September in a bid to keep its schedule on track.

The Essex airport’s managing director said: “We are confident people will continue to choose London Stansted in record numbers for the remainder of the summer and beyond.”

But this week the pan-European airports organisation, ACI Europe, warned of a possible slump ahead. The director general, Olivier Jankovec, said: “So far, demand has remained extremely resilient in the face of lasting inflationary pressures and record increases in airfares since the beginning of the year. But, looking ahead and past the peak summer months, we do see significant downside risks and much uncertainty.

“These include the prospect of deteriorating macroeconomics for the Eurozone and the UK as well as initial signals that discretionary spending might start decreasing and that pandemic‑savings buffers are exhausted.”

During June 2023, passenger numbers at the UK’s airports were 6 per cent below 2019 levels, ACI Europe said. But Heathrow has reestablished itself as the busiest European hub, regaining the lead from Istanbul’s new airport.


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