UK must adapt or miss out on vital trade opportunities

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While the UK waits for a third runway at Heathrow Airport, Manchester Airports Group (MAG) says it is its duty to help the UK grow and thrive internationally, head of cargo and business aviation Conan Busby (pictured) tells Air Cargo Week (ACW).

The UK government announced its backing for a third runway at Heathrow Airport in October 2016, and has published the draft National Policy Statement, with a vote in parliament expected by winter 2017-18.

Busby says the industry cannot wait for the third runway to open, it must adapt or miss out on trade opportunities. He believes a UK-wide approach to air services is essential and many carriers have proved it works well.

Busby tells ACW: “Across all of its sites MAG is delivering new, successful services which will support growth for both cargo and passenger services. The UK is one of the world’s most important economies and as such we need to ensure that trade is facilitated now – not in 15 years.”

Cargo volumes across MAG operated airports grew three per cent over 2016 to 692,398 tonnes with significant growth across all sites.

Manchester Airport (pictured) saw the strongest growth at 9.8 per cent to 113,253 tonnes, Stansted Airport was up 7.1 per cent to 254,051 tonnes while the group’s largest airport, East Midlands Airport grew 0.7 per cent to 325,094 tonnes.

Busby points out that the figures take into account the planned closures at East Midlands to invest £15 million ($18.7 million) to refurbish its runway. He tells ACW: “This was executed over seven consecutive weekends in order to minimise the impact on both cargo and passenger operations. These closures impacted throughput by more than 10,000 tonnes.”

Busby says MAG will be happy to maintain a steady level of growth but feels opportunities exist for more. “DHL launched a peak season service into London Stansted in 2016 which has continued into the New Year and it is hoped this will continue to enhance service levels in the Essex and London regions.”

The key growth sectors in 2016 included vegetable products, precious metals, fashion goods and works of art, while e-commerce continues to grow.

He believes increasing consumerism and demand for UK manufactured or value added will drive growth, adding: “As new, post-Brexit trade agreements are signed with nations further afield it is hoped this will increase demand for regional long haul air capacity in the next few years.”