CEO Blog: How Stansted Airport will help make the East of England one of the best places in the world to live, work and do business
On the day London Stansted submits a planning application to raise the cap on passenger numbers, CEO Ken O’Toole looks at the benefits Stansted Airport can bring to the region.
This year, passengers using London Stansted Airport will be offered a greater choice of destinations than ever before as locations such as New York, Toronto, Boston, Washington and Dubai will be added to an already unparalleled list of European routes. Factor in the 150 world class connections provided by Emirates through Dubai and you’ll quickly see that Stansted is poised to play a new and more significant role meeting the region’s global connectivity needs.
Attracting new airlines takes time and hard work – the economics and demographics of an airport’s catchment are of course important but airlines also apply significant weight to how easy it will be for their passengers to travel on to where they want to go, the attractiveness of the commercial terms and facilities offered by airports, and the scope for growth once they’ve established an initial base. In an era when record numbers of business and leisure passengers are flying, running an airport is an increasingly competitive business.
When MAG acquired Stansted from BAA in 2013, it would be fair to say that the airport had lots of untapped potential. Since then we have invested over £150m in refurbishing the terminal; the customer experience has been transformed; we now welcome nearly 10 million more passengers every year; there are twice as many airlines to choose from; and we have developed a route network which is the envy of many major airports around the world.
Almost exactly five years later, and having brought a new ambition to the airport, we have a real momentum and we are predicting continued strong growth in passenger numbers.
Stansted now also has a proud track record of responsible growth; we see a greater proportion of passengers arriving at our doors on public transport than any other UK airport; we have had zero breaches in our air quality limits; divert 99% of our waste from landfill and donate large quantities of uneaten food to support our local food bank in Harlow. And what’s more, we believe that we can grow further over the next decade without increasing our environmental impact.
We’re committed to maximising the social and economic benefits of growth in the most sustainable and efficient way possible for local residents, passengers, businesses and airline partners. That means doing everything we can to minimise the impacts of our operation.
Our investment in the airport has not only been inside the terminal building – we are very proud of our Aerozone, which welcomes 5,000 school children every year, and later in 2018 an £11million on-site further education college will open on our site.
Indeed, we try to take every opportunity to engage with our local neighbours and have always seen this as not a ‘have to do’ but an intrinsic part of our DNA. I have not been any prouder of my team’s efforts in this regard than recently when a local MP told us just how much they loved the airport because of the depth of its involvement in the community.
A powerful example of how this relationship works in practice is contained within the detail of the planning application that we have submitted today to Uttlesford District Council. Stansted has grown in a phased and managed way over the last 25 years, and we believe that it is the right time to set out the framework for the next phase of the airport’s growth.
Stansted is currently limited by a planning condition to handling 35 million passengers a year, and we expect to reach this in the early 2020s. So, a big part of this application is about seeking to raise this restriction and enabling the airport to handle up to 43 million passengers a year and in doing so, providing all of our stakeholders with commitments as to how we will manage our growth over the next ten years.
But we have not gone about this in isolation - we have spent the past six months consulting widely with local stakeholders and their feedback has been instrumental in shaping our proposals to retain both the current approved limits on the number of flights we can handle each year and the size of the airport’s noise footprint.
When you look at the numbers this is actually pretty remarkable – adding another eight million passengers into the airport every year but committing to do this in a way which will see no further increase in flight movements or noise beyond the currently approved limits. This represents managed and responsible growth.
Added to that, we are committed to increasing the benefits that will flow from this growth and out into the region. Many people will know one or more of the 12,000 people who work at the airport, and we believe that when the airport does well, the region benefits economically. But we don’t see this as a sufficient justification for our existence – we want to ensure that the growth we deliver springs from sustainable foundations. And in this instance, the passenger increase over the next ten years will bring with it 5,000 on-airport jobs and thousands more in the wider region, a doubling of the economic value-add created and millions more tourists using Stansted as their arrival point into the UK.
Another key reason for obtaining the approval to increase our passenger numbers will be that it will significantly strengthen our hand in discussions with airlines and having this clarity of vision will ensure we can do the best route deals to use the spare capacity on our single runway. This will hopefully mean more of what we have been able to announce recently – exciting new airlines flying to exciting new destinations all over the world.
Everybody at the airport has been taken aback by the wave of excitement that people from across the region have shown ahead of the launch of the Emirates flights to Dubai and Primera’s services to New York, Boston, Toronto and Washington. These are destinations that we’ve been targeting for some time because we know they are at the top of peoples’ wish lists. And it’s great that Stansted has a long list of airlines at our door wanting to learn more about us and our region.
It also means we are able to better plan our investment into the airport – we will now be able to provide passengers with an even more enhanced experience, and hopefully one which they are accustomed to at other entertainments facilities around the world.
Today marks another significant chapter in our recent, exciting history, and I look forward to keeping you updated on our exciting plans for the future.
If you would like any further information or have any questions, please do get in touch through the www.ourstansted.com website.