Manchester Airports Group reports strong results, pax and investment

By Benedict Evans |

Operating profit for MAG stood at £240.1m after accounting for one-offs, up from £28.6m in 2022-23, a 739.6% improvement year-on-year (Photo: MAG)

Manchester Airports Group (MAG), which owns and operates Manchester, London Stansted and East Midlands Airports, has reported a positive set of annual results and passenger levels in excess of those recorded in 2019 and 2020.

MAG served more than 61m passengers, exceeding pre-pandemic levels, and as the UK’s largest group of airports it posted record revenues of £1.2bn for the fiscal year to March 2024.

The Group also noted it is investing £2bn in its airports over the next five years, expanding capacity and improving customer service.

The Group is also investing £120m in a range of improvement projects at East Midlands Airport.

In the period 1 April 2023 – 31 March 2024, the Group posted revenues of £1.2bn (+20.3%) and an adjusted EBITDA of £507m, up 23.1% year-on-year.

MAG said this performance provides strong foundations for the continued development of partnership with its airlines, and the aforementioned programme of capital expenditure. This CapEx will primarily be funnelled into the creation of jobs, and the stimulation of international trade in high-value sectors.

CEO Ken O’Toole, CEO of MAG said the Group was uniquely placed to support the successful delivery of a its new industrial strategy: “As the UK elects a new government, we look forward to working with them on an industrial strategy for the country that is underpinned by the sustainable growth of aviation.”

“I am pleased to announce these positive results for 2023-24, which demonstrate the vital role our airports play in connecting people and businesses to the world,” continued O’Toole, noting: “Our growing route networks are providing access to more than 200 destinations, and we are committed to giving passengers the best possible choice to help them shape their journeys to suit their needs.

Strong pax growth

London Stansted became the first major UK airport to surpass pre-pandemic traffic levels in July 2023, and across the 2023 fiscal year it served 28.5m passengers, up 12% year-on-year and equal to 106% of traffic served for the 2019 fiscal year.

“This has been an incredibly positive year for London Stansted, serving more passengers than ever before, and continuing to expand our extensive route network – offering choice, value and ease to everyone who travels with us. With the significant investment plans we have in place, I know our airport has an exciting future ahead of it,” noted Gareth Powell, Managing Director of London Stansted.

London Stansted saw a minor increase in spend per passenger across both aviation and commercial in FY24, but also saw rising operating costs.

Elsewhere in the UK, Manchester Airport served 28.8m passengers across the year, up 14% on last year, and equivalent to 102% of traffic for the 2019 fiscal year.

East Midlands Airport served 4.0m passengers, up 21% year-on-year and 89% of pre-pandemic traffic.

“I am proud of the recognition our airport has received for its accessibility services, and the critical role we continue to play in powering global trade as the UK’s largest pure freight operation,” noted Steve Griffith, Managing Director of East Midlands Airport.

Chris Woodroofe, Managing Director of Manchester Airport, echoed these sentiments: “I am proud of Manchester Airport’s performance over this reporting period, both in how we have expanded our offering to passengers through new routes and the high levels of service we have delivered consistently across the year.”

Low cost, long-haul

Low cost short-haul capacity also increased across the Group, with Ryanair, Jet2.com, easyJet and TUI all adding to their route networks, alongside the return of British Airways to London Stansted, operating popular destinations across Europe.

Long-haul connectivity also continued to recover.

At Manchester Airport, Virgin Atlantic restored its direct route to Las Vegas, becoming the only airport outside of London to offer direct flights to the west coast of the US.

Retail concessions accounted for £300.8m of MAG total revenue for FY24, a 28.3% improvement year-on-year, as well as similarly strong growth in aviation income.

On 1 July 2024, the airport launched a new service to Shanghai with Juneyao Air, providing the UK’s first direct connection outside London to the Chinese financial capital.

London Stansted also expanded its reach to the Middle East earlier in the year, launching a weekly service (four times per week) to Amman with Royal Jordanian.

“Continued passenger growth has underpinned MAG’s strong performance with our focus on value and choice for our customers. With our revenue streams covering more of the customer journey, MAG is delivering shareholder value and re-investing returns in improved airport facilities and enhancing customer experience,”

CAVU and customer service

MAG’s global airport services business CAVU has also seen its international reach continue to grow.

Established a little over two years ago, global travel services business CAVU, owned and operated by MAG, now has a presence in more than 300 airports across 34 countries, and operates 26 airport lounges across the UK and US; this includes lounges at all three of MAG’s airports, and Bristol Airport.

All three of MAG’s airports delivered a strong customer experience throughout the year, with 96% of passengers passed through security at its UK airports in 15 minutes or less across the peak summer months of June, July and August 2023.

Total adjusted EBITDA for MAG was £507m, buoyed primarily by strong performance across Manchester Airport and London Stansted.

New surveys carried out in the first six months of 2024 showed nine out of ten passengers rated their experience in MAG airports as good, very good or excellent.

MAG added it has continued to make good progress on its £1.3bn Manchester Airport Transformation Programme, which is modernising and more than doubling the size of Terminal 2, a move which is intended to enhance the passenger experience.

In November 2023 the new terminal was awarded the Prix Versailles in recognition of its architectural and design quality, and the full transformation will be complete in 2025.

MAG secured planning permission in October 2023 to extend London Stansted’s terminal, and said the programme will transform the passenger experience and provide capacity to accommodate growth at the airport towards its agreed limit of 43m passengers per year.

Analysis by Optimal Economics has shown the scheme will create 5,000 more jobs and double the airport’s GVA (Gross Value Added) to £2bn per year.

A sustainable future

MAG’s primary internal sustainability commitment is net zero carbon is by 2038.

O’Toole spoke on the Group’s approach to championing net zero carbon aviation, noting: “MAG has also continued to play a leading role in supporting the transition to net zero carbon aviation by 2050, and that will continue in earnest in the year ahead.

In March 2024, MAG published research with transport sustainability experts ICF, which found that using the 27m tonnes of annual UK household waste to make Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) would be at least five times better for the environment than burning the waste to generate electricity.

The research concluded that if all the waste intended for incineration were used to make SAF, the carbon saving would be equivalent to the emissions of at least 46 million people flying from London to Madrid every year.

Through this research and its wider industry partnerships, MAG said it is working with the UK Government on how to support the creation of a thriving UK SAF industry with policies such as a revenue certainty mechanism to give price confidence to SAF producers, and improvements to the national waste hierarchy.

Under DEFRA Adaptation Reporting Power, MAG also released its Climate Adaptation Progress Report, which sets out a timeframe for the assessment of climate-related risks within the business, and the opportunities for improvement.

The Group also continues to invest in its local communities through Community Trust Funds, which this year contributed more than £750,000 to local charitable organisations and community groups.

East Midlands Airport also announced in September 2023 a new partnership with the UK’s largest hydrogen cluster, ‘East Midlands Hydrogen’, which will include a new 100% hydrogen pipeline to meet the airport’s projected demand of liquid hydrogen by 2050.

Further, in October 2023 the Group launched its Jet Zero Curriculum at its MAG Connect Aerozones, linking together MAG’s commitment to aviation decarbonisation and providing grass-roots education opportunities to local communities.

The curriculum will educate thousands of young people about SAF, its production, and the role it will play in aviation decarbonisation using an interactive game format.

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