Manchester Airport Agrees With EasyJet on Stansted Boost

Manchester Airports Group, owner of London Stansted Airport, has signed an agreement with EasyJet Plc aimed at more than doubling the discount carrier’s traffic at the third-busiest airport serving the U.K. capital.

The accord will boost EasyJet’s Stansted traffic to 6 million passengers over the next five years, from 2.8 million today, Manchester Airports said in a statement. Europe’s No. 2 low-cost carrier currently operates eight aircraft on almost 30 routes from the facility, located about an hour north of London.

The deal comes three months after Stansted was bought by MAG for 1.5 billion pounds ($2.4 billion). About an hour north of London, it serves 18 million people a year and specializes in low-cost services, with Ryanair Holdings Plc the No. 1 operator. Designed by U.K. architect Norman Foster, the airport ranks behind Heathrow and Gatwick among hubs in southeast England.

“We’re working hard with existing and prospective airlines to drive passenger growth at Stansted,” Manchester Airports Chief Executive Officer Charlie Cornish said in the release. “We strongly believe that London Stansted has a key role to play in any debate on South East capacity.”

A government-appointed inquiry led by Howard Davies, a former U.K. Financial Services Authority chief, is considering options to expand airport capacity. The task force is scheduled to recommend short-term options next year, followed by a final report by mid-2015, after the next parliamentary election.

The EasyJet deal may drive a similar agreement with Ryanair and help return passenger levels at Stansted to their 2007 peak of 23.8 million, Goodbody Stockbrokers analyst Donal O’Neill said in a note to investors. Dublin-based Ryanair has said it could add 1 million travelers annually over the next five years.

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