Hopes for regular long-haul flights from Stansted by next year

Andrew Harrison, managing director at Stansted Airport

Andrew Harrison, managing director at Stansted Airport - Credit: Archant

Stansted Airport hopes to have long-haul flights to the Middle East and the USA by 2017 – and possibly by next year.

Andrew Harrison, managing director of the airport, said it has been a “whirlwind” two years since it was taken over by the Manchester Airport Group (MAG) on this day in 2013.

Since then the airport has returned to seeing 20 million passengers pass through in one year and embarked on an £80million terminal transformation project, due to be completed this November.

The airport is now keen to attract new carriers flying to new, long-haul destinations as well as maintaining its existing offer.

To achieve this Mr Harrison has been speaking to businesses across the region, as well as upgrading the airport facilities to make them more appealing to other types of airline.

Part of this includes an £8m investment to transform one of the satellite terminals.

Mr Harrison said: “Nobody flies to an airport to go to an airport, they fly there because it allows them to get where they want to go – whether that’s for leisure or business.

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“The role we play is an infrastructure provider to help facilitate growth of the region.

“It is important we develop links to America. As I go around the region there is real demand for that – around a million people from the Stansted catchment area fly to New York each year.

“Speaking to the Suffolk Chambers of Commerce and businesses growing internationally, I met one person who had to drive from Ipswich to Heathrow twice a week to go to the States, or the Middle East, wherever it might be.

“We have to convince the airline based in Dallas or wherever that this is the destination to fly to that they don’t currently serve. If they have an aircraft coming into the fleet, we must convince them to deploy it here or else stop flying somewhere else – and that is a big job.

“We have to pack up all the stats about the region, potential of £101billion growth and all the rest, and make sure that region has every single chance of being as successful as it can be.

“They think they serve London, and so what if people have to travel around the M25? We have to show them they are missing something, and that something maybe even the government doesn’t understand.

“We are not forgetting the leisure market. But long-haul airlines look at business class first, and what follows is the leisure passengers.”

There are some charter flights to Orlando and Las Vegas from Stansted this year, run by Thomas Cook.

Reflecting on the past two years he added: “It has been amazing, and from a personal perspective really enjoyable.

“The airport had been in decline for six years, from 24m passengers in 2007 to 17.5m in 2013, so I am proud we have seen that potential coming through in terms of passenger growth.”

Mr Harrison also said he was proud of the airport’s work on corporate social responsibility and outreach, including the sustainable development plan set to be published soon and the new education centre with a focus on promoting skills and jobs.