30 seconds with Mark Souter, Business Development Manager, M.A.G
anna.aero: How does London Stansted try and distinguish itself from London’s five other airports to airline network planners?
Mark Souter: Number one here is that we have capacity; right now we’re running at about 50% capacity utilisation. As it currently stands, practically without having to do anything to the infrastructure — the taxiways, or terminal — we can handle up to 35 million passengers a year. Right now, we have around 17.5 million passengers. If you are an airline that’s looking to grow, then that’s a massive tick in the box. There’s a lot of other stuff that we’re doing — we’re lobbying government to try and improve our connectivity into London through the train network. What we want to do is get that journey time down. We are also undertaking a market survey of 300 businesses in the region and we will use the data gathered from that to market to the airlines. And in terms of our discussions with network planners, it’s also about cost, because if you compare us to Heathrow in particular, but also Gatwick for that matter, we’re the cheapest airport for landing and parking charges within the London system. We’re more than 50% cheaper than Heathrow. If you’re an airline looking to enter the lucrative London market, but actually do it with a cost advantage, then again we can tick that box.
aa: How much of the airport’s future rests on the outcome of the Davies’ Commission report?
MS: I wouldn’t say our future rests on this in the short- to medium-term. We’re sitting on quite a lot of untapped capacity here, and our view is we can play an important role in the overall debate. We have made two submissions — one deals with the short- to medium-term, what you see here right now can pretty much accommodate that future growth within the London system. In the longer term, we have submitted more detailed plans, which talk about Stansted potentially going up to four runways. We were invited by the Davies Commission to make those submissions. It’s just putting forward what is potentially viable here, we’re not campaigning for anything in particular. In the short- to medium-term, our focus is to drive business on our single runway. We’ll hit the 35 million passenger mark in 2026/2027 — we can service that passenger throughput pretty much with one runway. When we get to the 27 to 28 million passenger mark, we’ll need to make some minor tweaks to some of the taxiway layouts. Already we have planning permission to build a fourth satellite, which would give us the extra stand and gate capacity.
aa: Is it useful being able to talk to airlines as part of a group? On that basis, does MAG offer group discounts? Will you look to harmonise the incentives to airlines across the group?
MS: It’s been a real advantage. Post-acquisition we’ve seen a massive momentum and a committed aviation development team that is utilising the contacts and relationships that it already has. If you look at Manchester, Emirates has been operating there for over 25 years. We are benefitting from some of those strong relationships, and the learnings that our colleagues have had at Manchester. It’s allowed us to get a foot in the door a lot more easily. When we now meet with an airline, we can have a conversation about all four of our airports; that said, Stansted is still price regulated. Certainly when it comes to having the discussion about how we at M.A.G have acquired an airport in the London system that has a huge amount of capacity, that’s great and that’s exactly what we’ve been doing. We’re not permitted to say if you do this at Manchester, we can do that at Stansted, but we can have discussions about incentives for new incremental growth at Stansted. That’s no different to what we’ve just done with Ryanair and easyJet. What we’ve effectively done with Ryanair is offer them a very generous incentive in return for new incremental growth, which then instantly switched on six new based aircraft, 12 new routes, and a million passengers worth of growth per year over the next 10 years.
aa: How are deals with Ryanair and easyJet similar? How are they different?
MS: easyJet currently has 2.8 million passengers per year at Stansted and will increase that to six million over five years. Ryanair has 13 million passengers at Stansted now and will grow to 21 million by 2023. This deal struck at Stansted will mean that 20% of Ryanair’s total network growth will be at Stansted, so they are phenomenal numbers really. Generally what we will do is in return for incremental passenger growth, we will give discounts. Other than that, I can’t really go into too much detail. We also do marketing support — we have a dedicated marketing team under the M.A.G umbrella. We work closely with local newspapers and local radio, for example.
aa: Has Ryanair’s dominant presence scared off other carriers?
MS: Not really. The way I look at it from an operational perspective is that Ryanair has kept us on our toes, as they have demanded from us the highest operational performance from day to day.
aa: Has a re-invigorated London Gatwick been a big blow to London Stansted’s long-haul aspirations?
MS: I think it’s fair to say, like a lot of other airports, we are focused quite a lot on emerging markets. That really is a function more around the fact that those markets are growing. Airlines themselves want to start tapping into those growing economies — that’s where they see growth coming from in the medium-to long-term, and for us, we want to help meet their requirements. Also, Europe and North America are key; we have a history here of having served the North American market. We know that, particularly among the tech industries here and pharmaceutical companies, they’ve got quite a big demand for east coast US, Philadelphia in particular – Glaxo and Astra Zeneca, for example, have their US operations based in and around the Philadelphia area.