Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Manchester Airport to become ‘mini-city’

Originally uploaded by RoseBridger
Manchester Airport Group has announced that Manchester Airport is to be transformed into a ‘mini-city’ with hotels, leisure, entertainment and conference facilities, along with yet more retail outlets. There will be more cargo and logistics facilities like warehouses, and possibly manufacturing. The Airport has purchased 30 acres from Burford Group, a property firm, at a cost of more than £15 million, for development, which will also extend into the surrounding area.

So, what will all these diverse elements have in common? Manchester Airport City is based on established airport centric developments including Schiphol in the Netherlands, where the airport city concept expands the airport’s role as a gigantic landlord. If this is the model for Manchester Airport City, the new facilities will generate revenues for the airport, in the way as the existing retail and car parking facilities. This keeps the landing and navigations fees down for the airlines. The revenues also help fund further aviation infrastructure growth, such as terminals and runways. Tenants are chosen to boost the airport’s passenger numbers and cargo volumes.

Airports around the world aspire to Schiphol Airport’s role as a gigantic landlord, generating 75 per cent of its revenues from non-aeronautical activities. In addition to what the aviation industry sometimes refers to as ‘airport support community’ of related industries, airports around the world generate revenues from a bewildering range of seemingly unrelated functions. This encompasses golf courses (compatible with airports as the grass can be controlled to minimise wildlife and the risk of bird strikes), museums, theme parks and even what might be thought of as civic functions like schools and hospitals. Even though the facilities form part of the airport’s revenue stream, they can be outside the airport fence and appear to be part of the host community.

If Manchester’s ‘airport city’ plans are similar to others around the world, this development could be central to the airport’s growth plans and future financial viability. According to the Manchester Airports Group, the development of Manchester Airport City will help the airport meet its goals of doubling passenger numbers to more than 50 million per year by 2030, and increase cargo volumes from 166,500 tonnes in 2007 to 250,000 tonnes by 2015. Like many airports, Manchester Airport’s business is declining, with passenger numbers falling by nearly 4 per cent in 2008. Cargo volumes have plummeted month after month, with January 2008’s freight volumes 42 per cent less than January 2007.

News contributed by Rose Bridger

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