Travel bookers take note: regional airports are raising their game and setting their sights on attracting more travellers than ever in 2017 and beyond.
Last year, Manchester Airports Group reported a year-on-year increase in passenger numbers of 8.1% across its four regional hubs. Now, chief executive Charlie Cornish is calling for a new UK aviation policy to recognise the economic growth that regional airports can bring.
“The government must quickly commit to developing a new aviation policy that will maximise these opportunities for both the country as a whole and the regions that our airports serve,” he said, in the wake of the decision to approve a new runway at London Heathrow Airport.
A busy year for Manchester Airports Group
In 2016, Manchester Airport itself reported a healthy 10% increase in visitor numbers, while unveiling exciting plans for a £1bn makeover. Also with the Manchester Airports Group, terminal upgrades at London Stansted Airport and East Midlands Airport have boosted the retail offering for those passing through, contributing to an 11% increase in sales figures.
The group also includes Bournemouth Airport – the only one of its airports to show a dip in visitor numbers last year.
Liverpool John Lennon Airport gets a new-look lounge
Elsewhere, added “wow factor” is promised for Liverpool John Lennon Airport in 2017, with a £4m refurbishment of its departure lounge tipped to be completed by June.
The makeover includes new shops, seating areas, information screens and washrooms. It follows 18 months of similar works across the terminal, geared towards attracting new travellers and making journeys more comfortable.
Better rail links for Glasgow Airport
Glasgow Airport is also one to watch. At the end of last year, council chiefs in Glasgow and Renfrewshire backed plans to create a direct rail link between Glasgow Airport and the city centre, complementing the planned renovation of Glasgow Queen Street station.
Named the Glasgow Airport Access Project, the scheme will cost £144m and rely on tram-train hybrids. Construction will begin in 2022, with the new link due to come into operation three years later.
Ross Nimmo, head of planning and development at Glasgow Airport, told the press: “This is great news for travellers, and whether they choose the train, the bus or the car, Glasgow Airport will be easier to get to than ever before.”