Ken O’Toole, the recently appointed Managing Director of Manchester Airport, explained to Amy Hanna that exponentially growing passenger numbers and a flourishing destination network are just the beginning to MAN’s story of success.
As the biggest and busiest airport outside of London, Manchester Airport’s is a pivotal position in the air transport infrastructure of the UK. One of only two airports in the country to operate two runways – and with a network of airline partners and routes characterised by its depth and diversity – MAN has well established its post as an indispensable global gateway to the UK. The airport is presently enjoying a period of sustained success, and unprecedented growth over the last four years has seen passenger numbers rise exponentially to 22.3 million in 2015 – surpassing records set at its throughput peak in 2006.
Manchester Airports Group – which also operates Stansted, East Midlands and Bournemouth airports – too has made remarkable progress in recent years; and is now a fast-growing airport services group with enormously strong prospects and a wealth of potential. As Chief Commercial Officer – a role he held since 2012, Ken O’Toole has been in the vanguard of the Group’s growth, and his recent appointment in March to the new role of Managing Director of MAN will see him pioneer the continued prosperity of the gateway to the north of England – an achievement he aims to underscore by leading the airport to surpass 23 million passengers in the not too distant future.
“Whilst the debate over South East capacity continues – with all of the associated uncertainty as to when, or if, increased capacity will become available – it’s my intention to ensure Manchester continues to develop as a thriving international hub providing new direct services for the benefit of UK plc,” O’Toole established. “Customers do not have to fly through a London airport to reach their final destination, and as we grow frequencies and new routes at Manchester, we’re confident the numbers of people using Manchester Airport – which demonstrated 7.5% growth in the 12 months to March 2015 compared to the 4.5% UK average – will see our national importance increase further.”
Prior to joining M.A.G, O’Toole spent six years with Ryanair – initially exercising his experience as a qualified chartered accountant as Head of Revenue Management, before moving into the role of Director of New Route Development. “Having personally worked for an airline – as have many of my key senior management team – we have a strong and clear understanding of their needs, which is not always the case with airports,” he emphasised. The airport maintains strong and mutually supportive relationships with the 70 carriers that already fly from Manchester – something reflected in the expansion of its route network in the last few years. Many airlines have added new services and more capacity on existing routes – Saudia to Jeddah, Vueling Airlines to Barcelona, and Iraqi Airways to Erbil and Sulaymaniyah all serving as valuable examples. Emirates, Turkish Airlines and Qatar Airways too have all increased their frequencies, Thomas Cook will begin a new direct service to Miami in May, and the new Cathay Pacific service to Hong Kong – which makes Manchester the only airport outside of London to offer a direct route to China – is already performing impressively.
“As demonstrated by the fact that we serve over four million long-haul passengers a year – up by 20% over the last five years – our continued significant growth is testament to the critical role Manchester plays in UK aviation, providing the North of England and our extended catchment area (to Scotland and the Midlands) with global connectivity through an unrivalled network of short and long haul destinations,” O’Toole said. “We make no secret of wanting to add a second route to China, and following the success of the new Hong Kong service, we’re confident Beijing will come next.”
The needs of the passenger are at the heart of every development at Manchester Airport, and M.A.G is now investing heavily in its infrastructure – to deliver the best airport journey to its travellers. This includes new food and beverage offerings in Terminals 2 and 3 and the introduction of a £3.5 million (€4.8m) improvement to security in Terminal 1. “As we look to the future, O’Toole said, “we plan to continue this investment in Manchester Airport, to ensure it stays best in class and prepared for its continued growth.”