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London Stansted airport, best known as the biggest base for short-haul discount giant Ryanair Holdings Plc, plans to announce as many as three new inter-continental routes even as Brexit takes a toll on growth.
The airport added it’s first such service in June, when Emirates began flights to Dubai, and expects to unveil two long-haul routes and one mid-range service in 2019, Charlie Cornish, chief executive officer of owner Manchester Airports Group, said in an interview Thursday.
With Britain set to leave the European Union in March, demand over the next five years will be lower than it might have been, but Prime Minister Theresa May’s exit plan won’t halt growth, Cornish said. Stansted, 35 miles north of London, is targeting flights to the U.S., India and China, as well as more Emirates frequencies, spurred by demand from City banks, and technology and drug firms around Cambridge.
“We’ve done projections for all possibilities and while staying in the EU would be our preference, the current agreement is a far better option than a no-deal scenario,” Cornish said. “The Cambridge corridor is a critical economic asset that will continue to outpace most of the U.K. It will be impacted, but Brexit won’t change the overall trajectory.”
Stansted is targeting rapid expansion after a local council last month lifted a cap on annual passenger numbers from 35 million to 43 million. Work on a new arrivals terminal will start next year so that the existing building can focus on departures, bringing a major capacity boost from 2021. The airport lured 26 million travelers last year and anticipates close to 30 million in fiscal 2019.
Passenger numbers at Stansted will gain as London’s Heathrow hub awaits construction of a new runway and Gatwick, a rival discount base located south of the city, also struggles to accommodate more flights. Stansted is already less reliant on the low-cost sector, with Ryanair accounting for 73 percent of travelers compared with 80 percent when MAG took over in 2013.
©2018 Bloomberg L.P.