Inside Manchester Airport’s £1bn Facelift


Manchester Airport, the third largest in the UK, celebrated its 80th birthday on 25th June 2018.  The airport spent this milestone in the middle of a £1bn transformation.  This will see passengers enjoying enhancements such as faster security queues, redesign of terminals and parking areas.

In 2015, Manchester Airports Group announced an initial 10-year plan to invest £1bn in the infrastructure of the airport, spanning all 3 terminals and roads and car parks around the site.  Current runway capacity can support the transit of 55m passengers, though the airport currently only carries 22m.

Efficiencies in runway traffic without the addition of a new runway will allow Manchester Airport to hit this 55m mark by 2050.  For example, original plans were to have a Dual C taxiway which would allow two narrow-bodied aircraft to pass whilst taxiing.  This was upgraded to a Dual E taxiway, meaning two wide-bodied aircraft can taxi simultaneously.  This is also supported by the construction of 3 new piers.

New Routes And Markets Following Expansion

Manchester Airport has recently seen new routes to Muscat direct with Oman Air; Addis Ababa with Ethiopean Airlines and Jet Airways launching a new route to Mumbai.  Industry analysis indicates a growing appetite for emerging and established markets over the next 10 years.  Asian, African and Middle Eastern markets are expected to see double the growth of Europe and the Americas over the next 10 years (an increase of 600m passengers).
This is mainly due to the emergence of the “experience” economy, where travellers want to experience new cultures and environments. With such destinations being served by larger aircraft, more passengers will be passing through Manchester Airport to serve new routes which will be added.
With the increase in traffic through Manchester Airport over the next 30 years, the issue of under-capacity may present itself.  A similar situation has been seen at Heathrow Airport, where a third runway is to be built to satisfy demand.  However, this runway will not be completed until 2026 and the project was initially proposed in 2009.  If Manchester Airport forecasts the maximum 55m capacity will be reached by 2050, we can expect it to see similar problems with under-capacity.  By the time the proposal for a possible third runway is submitted, the industry will face challenges from the ever-increasing pressures on environmental impacts of further expansion.

Inside The Airport

Inside the airport, technological advancements will be made to areas such as check-in and baggage areas such as automatic bag drop-off.  Also, around 20,000 people are employed to support the 70+ airlines flying to over 210 destinations.  The expansion plans are to double the number of people employed at the airport to 40,000.  The plans will no doubt attract more airlines, opening-up more routes around the world.

Planned changes to 3 terminals include demolition of Terminal 1. Terminal 2 will see a complete redesign of the building’s interior, improved passenger services involving baggage halls and shorter security queue times.  These changes will be visible as early as 2019.  Terminal 3 will see similar, yet smaller scale improvements.  It will also see a new internal link to Terminal 2, meaning customers won’t have to leave the terminal building to move between the two.

Part of the overall plans is to follow in the path of Dublin Airport and introduce US immigration pre-clearance.  This will allow passengers to clear US immigration before they depart from the UK, meaning shorter overall journey times.  However, finer details of the overall plans such as this have yet to be confirmed by Manchester Airport.  This has led to calls of ‘economy engineering’ by the group.


Cost Cutting?

Manchester Airport aims to deliver efficiencies throughout the project through amending and updating certain requirements.  The airport has since been accused of cost-cutting, therefore compromising the quality of the final delivery.  This has been seen by customers around the airport, who have faced issues with parking and the removal of free drop-off and pick-up zones.  Passengers at Manchester have been labelled the “unhappiest” in the UK as they face long security queues.

The airport has responded by saying the overall project spend has actually increased from the initial £1bn.  However, the airport has not given any details on what the budget has increased to.  This is fuelling the argument that some passengers are expecting see under-delivery on initial promises, when the project is completed in 2023.