The CEO of Manchester Airports Group (MAG) has said improving connectivity to the company’s regional hubs “will do far more” for the UK’s economy than a third runway at Heathrow.

Charlie Cornish made the claim as MAG reported a 4.9 per cent increase in passenger numbers at its three airports – Manchester, Stansted and East Midlands – to 61.8 million for the year to 31 March. The group also saw adjusted earnings grow 5.9 per cent in the same period.

But the company warned that continuing Brexit uncertainty “is creating a more challenging outlook” in terms of economic growth and passenger demand.

Over the last year, MAG has invested £591 million in its airports. Manchester recently completed the first phase of its new facilities – including a new pier in Terminal 2. Meanwhile, Stansted – which has received permission to grow its capacity – is making progress on its own development plan, which includes a new arrivals terminal due to open in 2020. At East Midlands airport, MAG is increasing the size of the cargo apron to enable the hub to continue to play a major role in cargo shipments.

Commenting on the ongoing developments, Cornish said: “MAG continues to play a vital role in connecting different parts of the country to key global markets. The investments we are making in our facilities will allow them to play an even bigger role in the years to come. We are matching that capital investment with a focus on the experience that every one of our passengers has as they travel through our terminals, something we are looking to make as smooth as possible.

“By improving international connectivity to different regions, MAG airports will do far more to secure economic growth and rebalancing across the UK than a third runway at Heathrow will. The government must now show an active commitment to supporting the future growth of airports like Manchester, London Stansted and East Midlands. To achieve this, the government must support the delivery of better transport links to airports across the country as part of an integrated plan to grow global connections from the North, Midlands and the South.

“We welcome the government and EU’s commitment to maintaining vital air connectivity between the UK and Europe even in the event of a ‘no deal’ Brexit – something which allows passengers to book and travel with confidence.

“But continued uncertainty about Brexit will ultimately act as a drag on the economy and damage customer confidence. It is vital that the government finds a political solution to Brexit over the coming months to enable the country to move forward and to rebuild customer confidence.”

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