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Manchester Airports Taps Stansted Traffic Rebound After Takeover

Manchester Airports Group reaped an early traffic boost from its 1.5 billion-pound ($2.5 billion) purchase of London Stansted in March, with passenger numbers at the low-cost hub growing for the first time since 2007.

Stansted attracted 2.2 percent percent more travelers in 2013 for a total of 17.8 million, aided by the busiest December in four years, it said in a statement today. Manchester airport posted a 5.1 percent jump to 20.8 million, MAG said separately.

The Stansted purchase took the number of U.K. airports owned by MAG to four, creating a third major operator alongside Heathrow Ltd. and Global Infrastructure Partners, which owns London Gatwick. Since taking control, MAG has signed deals to boost flights with leading European discount carriers Ryanair Holdings Plc and EasyJet Plc, and is pursuing plans to attract long-haul airlines such as Dubai-based Emirates, which already serves Manchester with the Airbus A380 superjumbo.

“We now expect the airport to enter a period of sustained growth this year,” Stansted Managing Director Andrew Harrison said in the statement. Located an hour north of London, the terminal is targeting 30 million passengers by 2024 and expects to reach a capacity limit of 35 million by 2030, he said.

Manchester airport boosted customer numbers 5.4 percent in December for a nineteenth straight monthly gain, buoyed by a new Thomas Cook Group Plc route to Antigua.

Advances should continue in 2014, with new services including one to Charlotte, North Carolina, operated by US Airways successor American Airlines Group Inc., flights to Toronto offered by Air Canada’s low-cost Rouge unit, and the return of Saudia Airlines, MAG said today.

Stansted was sold by previous owner BAA Ltd. amid a forced breakup of its assets that began with the offloading of Gatwick in 2009 as antitrust regulators sought to foster competition. The split saw the disposal of Edinburgh airport, also to London City owner GIP, together with a renaming after Europe’s top hub.

Heathrow attracted 72.3 million travelers in 2013, up 3.4 percent, according to a statement yesterday. Gatwick was the second-busiest U.K. hub in 2013 with 35.4 million passengers, with Manchester ranked third and Stansted fourth.

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