Skip to main content

Our history

The history of Manchester Airport and aviation in Manchester

A scene from Manchester Airport in the 1970s

1928 - Barton, near Eccles, is chosen as the site of Manchester's new aerodrome. At the same time, Manchester City Council is keen to establish a municipal airport, so a temporary airfield is built in Wythenshawe

1929 - Wythenshawe Airport opens for business

1930 - Barton Aerodrome is completed. The aerodrome includes a control tower and large hangar (both of which still stand today). 

1934 - Discussions open with KLM on a Holland to North of England service. Barton Aerodrome is considered unsuitable for larger aircraft and the necessary improvements would be prohibitively expensive. As a result, land at Ringway, south of Manchester, is ear-marked for a new airport. 

1935 - Building work at Ringway commences

1938 - Ringway Airport is officially opened on 25th June. Operations begin at the airport two days later. In its first 14 months, the airport handles 7,600 passengers - the equivalent of a summer morning's work today! 

1939-45 - On 1st September, the last scheduled aeroplane flies before the outbreak of the Second World War. Ringway Airport goes on to become a hub of wartime engineering activity, as an aircraft manufacturing centre for Fairey Aviation and Avro. Runway and airport facilities are enhanced with three new runways and ten new hangars. The airport also acts as a training centre for over 60,000 parachutists. 

1946 - Peacetime passenger services begin

1947 - Passenger numbers triple to more than 34,000 a year

1949 - Extended terminal facilities open in the converted wartime building

1951 - The main runway is extended from 1,280 metres to 1,798 metres

1952 - The airport starts 24-hour operations and now handles 163,000 passengers every year

1953 - Sabena (Belgian Airlines) introduces the first scheduled service to New York

1954 - The airport records its millionth passenger since the Second World War

1955 - The first inclusive tour flight begins to Ostend

1962 - HRH the Duke of Edinburgh opens the new £2.7 million terminal. The terminal is truly innovative; the first in Europe to incorporate a 'pier' system, in which passengers remain under cover until ready to board the aircraft.

1969 - The runway is extended to 2,745 metres. This allows aircraft to take off with a full payload and fly non-stop to Canada.

1974 - A new inter-continental pier, capable of handling Boeing 747s, opens for business. The new intercontinental pier features numerous innovations, including travellators, waiting lounges and air conditioning. For the first time, ‘air bridges’ connect passengers direct to the aircraft.

1978 - 15 scheduled airlines operate flights to 37 destinations in the UK, Europe and North America. Over 100 companies operate at the airport, employing more than 5,000 people.

1980 - For the first time, passengers numbers top more than half a million in a single month.

1981 - The runway is extended by 244 metres to 3,048 metres, in order to attract long-haul flight operators.

1986 - The World Freight Terminal opens

1987 - Passengers top 1 million a month for the first time

1988 - Manchester Airport celebrates its Golden Jubilee

1989 - HRH the Princess of Wales opens the new Domestic Terminal. The new terminal includes dedicated check-in and car parking facilities.

1990 - The airport launches its 'Towards a Better Environment' programme, aimed at minimising the airport's impact on the local community

1991 - Manchester publishes its new 'Development Strategy for the year 2005', including plans for a 21st Century airport, designed to handle 30 million passengers a year by 2005, complete with proposals for a second runway.

1992 - The Aviation Viewing Park opens

1993 - Terminal 2 is opened by HRH the Duke of Edinburgh, doubling terminal capacity to around 20 million passengers a year. A new railway station is opened in May, providing direct links to many towns and cities in the North of England.

1995 - Annual passenger numbers reach 15 million

1997 - Approval is granted for the building of the second runway and work begins. The new runway opens in February 2001. Manchester is still the only airport outside of London with two full length runways.

2000 - Work starts on the £60 million Integrated Public Transport Interchange, to include a new bus, coach and train station. It opens for passengers in 2004, giving passengers onward connections to many major UK cities. The Government also gives the go-ahead for a £289 million Metrolink tram line extension to the Airport. 

2001 - Manchester Airport completes the purchase of East Midlands Airport

2002 - Manchester Airport welcomes athletes from around the world to the Commonwealth Games, hosted in Manchester

2003 - Manchester Airport’s bid to house one of the retired Concorde fleet is successful. The aircraft, G-BOAC, went on display in the Aviation Viewing Park in Spring 2004, before being moved to its new £1million home, the Concorde Conference Centre, in 2008.

2005 - The airport handles 22 million passengers in a year for the first time

2007 - Building work begins on a major refurbishment of Terminal One. Meanwhile, runway markings are changed to '05-23' from '06-24' to account for changes to the earth’s magnetic field.

2008 - The airport sees one of its busiest weeks as Zenit St Petersburg and Glasgow Rangers fans travel to Manchester for the UEFA Cup Final. Just a week later 25,000 Manchester United fans fly out to Moscow to see their team take on Chelsea in the UEFA Champions League Final. Manchester Airport marks its 70th anniversary on June 25th 2008.

2009 - £80 million of terminal improvements are opened across the three terminals in July 2009. Shortly afterwards on the 22nd October, Emirates, officially opens a new luxurious lounge for its premium passengers and frequent flyers. In November, the airport begins to trial Imaging Technology, also known as body scanning, in Terminal 2.

2010 – Manchester welcomed the A380, the world’s biggest aircraft that now operates 3 daily flights between Manchester and Dubai.

2013 - Manchester Airport celebrated its 75th birthday.

2013 – MAG purchased London Stansted and became the UK’s largest airport operator.

2013 – Manchester Airport’s new control tower opened.

2013 – Airport City Manchester was granted planning approval.

2014 – Cathay Pacific launched a four times a week direct service from Manchester to Hong Kong.

2014 – Manchester Airport Metrolink route launched.

2015 – Manchester Airport unveiled a 10 year transformation programme: MAN-TP.

2015 - Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Manchester Airport with David Cameron.

2016 - A range of new routes launched in 2016, including significant long haul destinations that can only be flown directly from Manchester and London. These include Hainan Airlines’ direct service to Beijing, Thomas Cook Airlines' new routes to Boston and Los Angeles, and Singapore Airlines’ new direct flights to Houston.

2016 - Air France celebrated its 70th anniversary flying from Manchester in June, confirming its position as the airport’s longest serving airline.

2016 - Virgin Atlantic celebrated 20 years flying from Manchester in July

2016 – Manchester Airport experienced its busiest ever Christmas period, with 22% year on year growth.

2017 – Virgin Atlantic and Thomas Cook Airlines launch flights to San Francisco

2017 – Work commences on the Manchester Airport Transformation Programme

2017 – Airport celebrates its busiest day with more than 107,000 passengers passing through the three terminals

2018 - Manchester Airport celebrates its 80th birthday by releasing a special birthday video featuring Manchester poet Tony Walsh, AKA Longfella