Manchester Airport set for biggest football flight boost since 2008 UEFA finals week


Over 16,000 football fans are set to travel through Manchester Airport over the next three days – on 74 flights, as Manchester United welcome Athletic Club Bilbao to Old Trafford and Man City fly out to play Sporting Lisbon, in the UEFA Europa League.

31 arriving flights from Spanish airports Bilbao and Vitoria are due to touch down at Manchester carrying a total of around 6,500 Athletic Bilbao fans. Following their team’s Europa League tie against United, 31 flights will depart after the match on Thursday night and into Friday – accounting for a total of around 13,000 passenger movements.

Over the same period, 12 flights between Manchester and Lisbon will carry a total, in the region of 3,000 passengers, as Manchester City fly out to play in the Portuguese capital city of Lisbon.

Manchester Airport’s Chief Operating Officer, Andrew Harrison, said: “It’s set to be one of the busiest periods of football flights we’ve seen for quite some time and with passenger volumes having show growth for 12 consecutive months now, this is certainly another timely boost.

“I’m actually a Huddersfield Town fan, so I am totally neutral when it comes to the two Manchester teams – the ideal scenario for us an airport would be for City and United to continue all the way through the competition, until they meet each other in this year’s final. It’s possibly that Sir Alex and Mr Mancini would perhaps disagree, but with both teams out of the Champions League, the Europa League competition is still great news for the airport and the city of Manchester generally.

“Sport is huge economic generator for the region. Football fans spend a significant amount of money on air transport and accommodation, so along with the airport and the football clubs, the city’s hospitality and retail industries are the main beneficiaries of the increased economic activity.”

Ticket sales have been high for the visiting Athletic Club Bilbao fans – with the club’s initial allocation selling out, an additional 2,000 tickets have gone on sale, resulting in a sudden increase in operations. Scheduled services run throughout the year between Manchester and both Lisbon and Bilbao – operated by TAP Portugal and easyJet, respectively – however due to the increased demand additional charter flights have been put on to carry fans from to and from Manchester.

The airport has also drafted in extra members of staff to ensure it can cope with the additional passengers – with retail outlets in the terminals also stocking up on extra supplies.

Spanish posters will also be positioned around terminals and fans will also be given handouts, written in Spanish, welcoming them to Manchester and advising them of how to travel between the airport and the city, along with suggestions of tourist attractions to visit.

Coach, bus and train operators are also making additional preparations to help the fans make the eight-mile trip from the airport into central Manchester.

In 2008, the City of Manchester Stadium hosted the UEFA Cup Final between Zenit St Petersburg and Glasgow Rangers on May 14th. On the 21st May, over 25,000 Manchester United fans flew out to Moscow to see their team beat Chelsea in the UEFA Champions League Final. An estimated 60,000 football fans travelled through the airport during this period, generating an estimated 4 million for the city’s economy.

When Old Trafford hosted the UEFA Champions League Final on 28th May 2003 it contributed to the busiest day in Manchester Airport's history. Over the 28th and 29th May an additional 242 commercial flights operated via Manchester Airport, carrying an additional 43,438 extra passengers in and out of the airport.

Manchester Airport’s Runway Visitor Park is also gearing up for an influx of additional aviation enthusiasts, who will be keen to see some of the aircraft chartered to carry the football fans, make a first visit to Manchester.


For further information please contact the Manchester Airport Press Office on 0161 489 2700 or email

Published on: 07/03/2012 10:30:30