Jobs to take off at Stansted Airport

The new managing director of Stansted Airport, Andrew Harrison.

The new managing director of Stansted Airport, Andrew Harrison. - Credit: Archant

FEARS up to 1,100 jobs could be lost at Stansted Airport in a row over increased landing charges have been quelled by the Uttlesford hub’s new managing director.

Andrew Harrison, appointed as Nick Barton’s replacement last week by new owners Manchester Airports Group (MAG), told the Reporter that the company’s aim was to create MORE jobs by utilising the airport’s spare capacity.

He also made it clear a second runway was NOT part of MAGs business plan.

“Our aim is to make Stansted the best airport in the London area – not the biggest but the best,” said Mr Harrison, following the completion of MAGs £1.5billion takeover deal last Thursday.

“We invested in Stansted Airport because we believe there is lots of spare capacity and a lot that can be done to offer a broader range of airlines and routes to fill it.

“This will allow us to grow the airport and hopefully to employ more people – that is the plan.”

Last week Ryanair said it would be reducing weekly operations from the Uttlesford hub by nine per cent – the equivalent to more than 170 flights – in protest at increased fees at Stansted.

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The Irish low-cost carrier accounted for about 70 per cent of Stansted’s traffic in 2011 and has estimated the cutbacks would lead to a loss of around 1,100 jobs at the airport.

But Mr Harrison was quick to alleviate concerns about the potential impact of any reduction in flights.

“It is to be expected that Ryanair will put down a marker in terms of cost but that has been done based on the relationship with the previous owner and not the current one,” he said.

“MAG has a very positive relationship with Ryanair – which is Manchester’s fastest growing carrier – and they are a really important part of Stansted’s past, present and future.

He added: “In saying that, so is a broader range of destinations. People in the community have said we do not have enough business routes and no long haul routes and they want to have more choice of routes and carriers.

“We are looking for Ryanair and easyJet to grow, as well as other airlines, but it will take time as we look to build momentum.

“Ryanair always talks about jobs in relation to growth but I’m not sure how they got to the numbers they got. From our point of view we see Stansted growing rather than constricting, so I wouldn’t worry.”

Despite the assurances that a second runway was not part of MAGs agenda, Mr Harrison did caution that the future of aviation capacity in the UK was still an ongoing debate the firm would have to contribute to in due course.

“There is a national government debate going on, which we support and think is important, but we would also like to see it go a bit faster because the process has been very slow.

“At some stage we will have to enter that debate but haven’t spent time worrying about a second runway.”

The new managing director would not be drawn on whether or not controversial drop-off charges brought in at the end of last year would be scrapped but said the move by BAA had come as a “surprise”.

He said MAG would look into the reasons behind the change but that it was too early to say whether charges would remain.

Improvements to car parking, including cheaper and more flexible options for passengers, are being explored along with better transport links to London, but Mr Harrison said he would have “his ears pinned back” to listen to the community’s concerns.

He added: “I am delighted to be here. I really want to engage with the local community, with the airlines and with our people here so that we can give people an airport they can be proud of.

“I am in listening mode at the moment. We want to understand the role people believe we as an airport can play. We see airports as a massive economic driver and a force for good.

“I have read a lot about the antagonistic relationship between the previous owners and the local community which I hope if we cannot put behind us we can at least move forward on a more positive common ground.”