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11 November, 2019 - 18:44 By Tony Quested

Stansted Airport expansion blueprint set to fly again

Stansted Airport owner MAG is confident that consent for major expansion – put on hold by a change in leadership at Uttlesford District Council in September – will finally be forthcoming by the end of this month.

The district council’s planning committee last November provisionally approved the application to increase the numbers using Stansted from 35 million passengers annually (for which there is already permission) to 43 million. It currently serves 28 million passengers a year. 

However, in May, the Residents for Uttlesford group took control of the council and decided to refer the original decision back to the planning committee.  

A Stansted source told Business Weekly that UDC has taken extensive legal advice and its understanding is that lawyers and planners confirm there is no reason for UDC to withhold the permission they resolved to grant.

“The Leader of UDC has promised the residents of Uttlesford a conclusion to this process in late November 2019; we welcome this commitment as any further delay, uncertainty and expense is in no-one's interest,” the Stansted source revealed.

The delayed consent would be a further timely boost as Stansted steps up its bid to woo Chinese and US carriers to the Essex hub.

In an interview with Business Weekly, Aboudy Nasser – Stansted’s chief commercial officer – said near-constant dialogue with US and Chinese carriers was now taking place.

Nasser was buoyed by research conducted for the airport’s new Gateway To Growth report which will act as a blueprint for future expansion of services into Europe and further afield. 

Nasser said: “The report showed the massive size of the market we are targeting and also the huge numbers of people within our catchment, especially in the London-Stansted-Cambridge corridor, who at present are having to spend two and a half hours driving round the M25 to Heathrow or Gatwick to get flights to China or America.

“Primera’s demise with the most recent US service was unfortunate in so many ways but the airline proved it could command the necessary passenger numbers to maintain an American service had outside influences not hindered its progress.

“Our aviation development team recently attracted Air India to open up that vital market in the East and they are out in China every two months talking to major airlines. 

“Through tradition Chinese passengers have used Heathrow or Gatwick but we are continuing in our efforts to educate them about the benefits of using Stansted instead; there is a significant Chinese population in our catchment. 

“Cambridge is prime due to the significant number of Chinese students in the city and the growing number of Chinese companies either putting down roots there or investing in local companies.

“Of half a million passengers flying from the UK to Shanghai, 50 per cent are based in our catchment area; there is huge potential for us in eastern and western China and the British Embassy in China is helping us in our campaign.”

Stansted is unique within the holy trinity with Gatwick and Heathrow because it has ample slots available to accommodate new services using the single runway.

While Gatwick and Heathrow have terminal capacity but ‘full’ signs over the runway; Stansted is the opposite. It has runway capacity to burn while terminal infrastructure improvements are being phased.

Having disrupted the traditional short haul air travel market and trailblazed a unique model of low-cost travel for UK families, holidaymakers and business travellers to destinations around Europe, MAG is keen to do the same in the long haul market. 

Nasser says Stansted has been encouraged in this regard by the phenomenal success of Emirates with its hub and spoke service from Stansted to Dubai and onward markets. It started with a daily offering but demand prompted Emirates to double the service.

He said: “The arrival of Emirates at Stansted didn’t happen overnight. We talked to them for a long time before they decided to commit. It was a similar case with Air India. 

“Then when they do commit it is all hands on deck; all parties move at a rapid rate to ensure the launch hits schedule and everything goes smoothly.

“We are confident we will be able to unveil many more such successes for Stansted in the immediate future. MAG is utterly committed to growing the airport in the right manner for the benefit of passengers, local companies and especially the local community.”

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