UK. Retail income across Manchester Airports Group’s (MAG) portfolio grew by +7.5% year-on-year to £111.9 million in the six months to 30 September, driven by increased passenger volumes and improved yields.

The airport company, which runs Manchester, London Stansted and East Midlands airports, highlighted the “continuing good food & beverage performance” in the period, as well as investment in retail and car parking facilities. In the first half of the year MAG piloted its first own branded, food-led Proof 65 bar at East Midlands, complementing its in-house airport lounges, Escape and 1903.

The MAG six-month performance in detail (click to enlarge).

Across the group passenger traffic climbed by +3.8% year-on-year to 35.7 million. This was driven by strong growth at London Stansted Airport (+8.9%), including the launch of a new Emirates service and a solid performance at Manchester Airport where the airport filled the capacity previously operated by Monarch. The first phases of MAG’s £1 billion transformation programme at Manchester will open in Spring 2019.

Group revenue increased by +8.3% to £508.5 million while Adjusted EBITDA rose by +3.7% to £244.5 million.

Passenger traffic growth by airport, with Stansted posting healthy growth in the half (click to enlarge).

In other developments, MAG welcomed approval of its application to raise the ‘planning cap’ at London Stansted Airport from 35 million passengers a year to 43 million. MAG noted in a statement: “The decision will enable Stansted to make best use of its spare runway capacity over the next decade at a time when other London airports are approaching full capacity.”

How MAG revenue broke down by channel in H1 2018; click to enlarge.

MAG has also announced its intention to bid to operate Sofia Airport, with a tender for a 35-year management contract issued in the Summer. The company said: “MAG is targeting this opportunity because it sees strong potential growth and has confidence that it can use its expertise to deliver a new passenger experience and global route network at Sofia to compete with top tier airports around the world.”

The £1 billion transformation of Manchester Airport will open in phases from next year, with commercial activities a central element.

MAG CEO Charlie Cornish said: “MAG’s dynamic and innovative approach to operating our airports has again delivered a healthy performance, with sustained growth taking us through the 60 million passengers per annum milestone across our three airports in September 2018.

“I am delighted to report that the first elements of our new terminal investments will be opening on time at Manchester Airport early next year. The new facilities in Terminal 2, part of our £1 billion investment in transforming the airport, will not only offer significant additional terminal capacity to allow us to grow further, but will also offer a first class passenger experience.”

He added: “A real focus this year has been on securing brand new long haul routes from our airports. To this end, the launch of new daily Emirates flights from London Stansted to Dubai on a three-class Boeing 777 was a magnificent moment for both the airport and the wider region. We know that the service is already appreciated by businesses from the London-Cambridge corridor who are now using Stansted to travel east, as well as by leisure passengers from London and across East Anglia.

“Similarly at Manchester, we were able to announce new routes to Mumbai and Addis Ababa, the first links between the North and the economic heart of India, and sub-Saharan Africa. These are the kind of links that will form the backbone of the country’s new trading links when Britain leaves the European Union next year, and at MAG we stand ready to connect all parts of the UK to key long-haul markets.”