Manchester Airports Group (MAG) is calling on the Government to carry out an urgent review of its new travel restrictions as its half-year results show passenger numbers remained 82% down on pre-pandemic levels, despite initial early signs of recovery over the summer.
The owner and operator of Manchester, London Stansted and East Midlands airports saw year-on-year revenues increase by £64.9 million, but the figure was down 70% on the same period two years ago.
Overall, MAG reported a loss before interest and tax of £75.7 million for the six-month period from 1 April to 30 September. By contrast, the group returned £172.7 million in profit for the same six months in 2019.
Initial data suggests passenger numbers were down by 10-20% across the group following the introduction of Day 2 PCR tests, which was announced on 27 November, and that this impact has increased further over recent days following the introduction of pre-departure tests this week.
MAG welcomed 2.7 million passengers in October, which was the first month since February 2020 in which Manchester Airport and London Stansted Airport each served over one million passengers. Passenger volumes in November were at 58% of 2019, the closest they have been to pre-pandemic levels.
MAG CEO said: “The first half of this year tells a story of how travel restrictions held back the recovery of UK aviation, especially when compared to the rest of Europe.
“As restrictions eased, passenger numbers grew steadily at all three of our airports.
“The reintroduction of costly and inconvenient travel testing requirements has created further uncertainty and delayed our recovery.
“The Government has talked openly about the damage these restrictions cause to the travel sector, but neither they nor the Opposition have recognised the critical need to support our industry in return.
“As a business, we will always do our part to protect public health, but we also need these temporary measures to be removed when they are no longer worthwhile.
“These restrictions may have slowed the arrival of Omicron but it is now transmitting in the community, and the Government needs urgently to review whether the rapidly reducing benefit of testing justifies the damage it is causing to consumer confidence.
“MAG, and the wider UK travel industry, can be confident of a strong revival when travel restrictions are lifted. All we are asking for is to be able to plan for our recovery, and to be given the same chance that every other sector was given through the domestic roadmap earlier this year.”
Manchester Airport served one million more passengers in the first six months of the year compared to the same period in 2020 and, following a 12-month delay, the airport’s new Terminal 2 extension opened its doors to passengers for the first time in July this year.
Stansted Airport served 3.5 million passengers between April and September, up 59% on last year. The airport’s recovery was the fastest among major UK airports. According to CAA data, in September the UK’s fourth largest airport had seen 43% of its pre-pandemic traffic return.
East Midlands Airport also saw demand for its popular European holiday destinations return as restrictions eased, with numbers up 33% on 2020, after its passenger operation was paused for six months at the height of travel restrictions.