Skift Take

Unlike Heathrow, Stansted has room to grow.

Ryanair Holdings Plc said it’s in negotiations to end a moratorium on growth at London’s Stansted airport following the 1.5 billion-pound ($2.3 billion) takeover of its biggest base by Manchester Airports Group on Feb. 28.

Europe’s leading discount carrier is examining options to resume expansion plans abandoned after a spat with former owner BAA Ltd. over access charges, Chief Executive Officer Michael O’Leary said today in an interview in Istanbul.

“We are talking with MAG on growing our traffic,” O’Leary said. If a deal is reached, Ryanair could start expanding “rapidly” at Stansted as early as next summer, he said.

Ryanair, which last year accounted for more than two-thirds of Stansted’s passenger total, carrying 12.5 million people, had said when the takeover was completed that it would cut traffic 9 percent after MAG inherited a 6 percent fee hike from BAA. MAG this month signed an accord with EasyJet Plc aimed at doubling the airline’s annual passenger count to 6 million in five years.

Combined growth from the two discount carriers could help return Stansted’s passenger levels to their 2007 peak of 23.8 million from the current 17.5 million, according to Donal O’Neill, an analyst at Goodbody Stockbrokers in Dublin.

With a terminal designed by U.K. architect Norman Foster, Stansted ranks third behind Heathrow and Gatwick among London hubs and fourth in the U.K. including Manchester, which made its purchase after Ferrovial SA’s BAA, now known as Heathrow Airport Ltd., was forced to cede assets following an antitrust probe.

Editors: Chris Jasper, Benedikt Kammel. To contact the reporters on this story: Ercan Ersoy in Istanbul at [email protected]; Kari Lundgren in London at [email protected]. To contact the editor responsible for this story: Benedikt Kammel at [email protected].

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Photo credit: President and CEO of Boeing Commercial Airplanes Conner and Ryanair Chief Executive O'Leary pose during a signing ceremony at the 50th Paris Air Show near Paris Pascal Rossignol / Reuters

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