Group says fall in passenger numbers at airport shows no need to rush expansion

PUBLISHED: 07:47 23 October 2019

The departure lounge at Stansted Airport

The departure lounge at Stansted Airport

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A campaign group which opposes expansion at Stansted Airport says a new set of figures show a fall in passenger numbers using the facility.

Stansted airport passengers year-on-year increase/decrease trends between October 2018 and September 2019. Infographic: CONTRIBUTED.Stansted airport passengers year-on-year increase/decrease trends between October 2018 and September 2019. Infographic: CONTRIBUTED.

Stop Stansted Expansion (SSE) says there has been a reduction of passengers passing through the terminals over the past three months of around 200,000, equivalent to a year-on-year decline of 2.3 per cent.

This comes after 63 consecutive months of year-on-year growth.

A campaign group spokesman said: "It is understood that part of the reason for Stansted's decline in recent months is the non delivery of new Boeing 737 Max aircraft to Ryanair. All Boeing 737 Max aircraft have been grounded since March following two fatal crashes.

"It is not yet known when or if these safety problems can be satisfactorily resolved to allow Boeing to recommence aircraft production and deliveries to Ryanair, which accounts for four out of every five passengers at Stansted.

"Stansted's passenger numbers are also expected to be down in October, partly due to the collapse of Thomas Cook at the end of September."

In July, Stansted Airport had a 0.5 per cent reduction in passengers, followed by 3.7 per cent in August and in 2.7 per cent in September.

The airport's cargo business is also 'substantially down' with a loss of 28,000 tonnes accounting for 11 per cent on a year-on-year basis and a six per cent decrease in active cargo aircrafts compared to last year.

Peter Sanders, SSE chairman, said: "These latest Stansted Airport traffic figures, showing declines across the board in passenger numbers, flights and cargo activities, demonstrate the nonsense of 'project fear' whereby Stansted Airport and some local business leaders were seeking to panic Uttlesford District Council into a hasty approval of the airport's expansion plans. There is no question of growth being stifled."

He added: "We have consistently pointed out the Stansted Airport planning application for 43 million passengers a year (54 per cent more than in 2018) was premature. There is absolutely no rush for any decision.

"At the very least, Uttlesford District Council should do nothing until we all know the outcome of SSE's legal challenge in the High Court, which takes place from November 12-14."

A Stansted Airport spokesman said: "London Stansted plays a vital role in providing the strong international links our country needs, and in the last six years we have seen over 11 million more people passing through our doors per year and a whole host of new airlines and routes arrive at the airport.

"The planning application was submitted in order to allow our airline partners and those looking to grow at Stansted the long-term clarity needed to make further investment decisions, but also importantly to provide our local community with the assurance that any future growth will be delivered in a measured and sustainable way.

"In addition to our on-site trade union, Visit East of England and the local Chambers, hundreds of local residents, businesses, staff and on-site partners have passionately backed these plans and we continue to encourage Councillors to follow the advice they have received from both their officers and independent legal counsel and issue the airport's planning permission."

Stansted's latest figures contrast with its biggest rival, Luton Airport, which published a 7.3 per cent three-month increase over the same period, accounting for 5.3 million passengers until August 31. Heathrow Airport has also seen a small increase of 0.7 per cent, accounting for 22.7 million passengers in the same period. However, the campaign group said that Heathrow is already at full capacity.

The campaign group's comments come following claims by the East of England's chambers of commerce last month that Stansted Airport's expansion should not be delayed with Brexit fast-approaching, as the regional economy would experience 'low growth'.

Last month, Unite, the largest British-Irish union hit out at Uttlesford District Council for supposedly 'delaying' the airport expansion application, which would have seen an increase from 35 million to 43 million passengers, as well as 5,000 new jobs. The claims were rejected by Councillor John Lodge, R4U leader.

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