One in every 25 passengers who fly from Manchester Airport is now stepping on board an Emirates aircraft .
And that staggering figure will only increase in January when all three daily flights to Dubai will be aboard the ‘super jumbo’ A380.
Before that, the A380 will be used throughout October half-term fortnight – replacing the one-a-day service still run by a Boeing 777-300ER – to cope with demand.
Scoring the treble A380, a plane the length of two blue whales, means Manchester is in line with major airports like Paris and Barcelona – or ‘punching above its weight’ as one airport boss has admitted.
And as the only hub outside Heathrow where Emirates has chosen to ‘go pure’ with the A380, it’s a nod to Manchester’s place at the heart of the Northern Powerhouse.
Speaking at an event at Manchester’s Chamber of Commerce, Laurie Berryman, Emirates Vice President, UK, described passengers’ fascination with the world’s biggest airliner, which will soon be flying 1,600 passengers a DAY out of Manchester.
He said: “It’s iconic. We are now the world’s largest operator of the A380 and every time we put it on we boost passenger numbers by 15 to 20 per cent because people love it.”
Manchester, he said, was a key focus for the airline.
He added: “There is a feeling down south that everyone wants to fly from southern airports. But they don’t.
“That’s why Manchester is so important to us. We believe in Manchester. We want to invest in the local economy. We are proud to have been here 26 years.”
In the year up to March next year, Emirates is on track to fly a total 1m passengers between Manchester and Dubai.
And from there, travellers can hop on to more than 60 destinations – with new services now added to cities in the Philippines, China, and Vietnam.
The most popular destination is Dubai, which will launch a host of new theme parks in October and will be home to the Expo in 2020.
Next is Bangkok, followed by Perth, Singapore, Mauritius, Sydney, Brisbane, Aukland – now possible with just one stopover in Dubai – and then Cape Town.
On Brexit, Berryman added: “We woke up on that Friday morning wondering if the world had changed and we soon saw it hadn’t. People want to travel.”
He said it would be ‘better for passengers’ if barriers which limit airlines to flying via certain hubs could be removed. Just as flag-flier BA is restricted to flying via the UK, Emirates must fly by the UAE.
He added: “I’m not an expert but there’s a big move to make a global open sky so anybody can fly anywhere.
“There are benefits to that. I think it could only be a good thing for the travelling public if those barriers were taken down.”
He said they welcome the airport’s £1bn transformation project.
Emirates began small with just five staff and two flights a week at Manchester in 1990. The airline had ‘seen the commerce of the city and how it needed to be linked with the rest of the world’.
At the time, it was among a minority of long-haul services, along with Singapore and American airlines.
By 2000, there was a flight every day, doubling in 2003 – before the A380 was brought into play in 2010.
At the time, Laurie said, this was considered a bold move.
He added: “It was thought the super jumbo was designed for a big airport like Heathrow, New York or Singapore.
“But we saw the demand and that demand just kept on growing.”
The second A380 was brought in February 2015, with the third due in January.
There are also now nearly 400 Emirates staff in the city – 30 at the airport and 350 at the European customer contact centre in Manchester.
Every night, more than 70 crew members stay in the city.
Emirates, which also has a lounge at Manchester, also operates a huge cargo business here, carrying more than 22,000 tonnes every year.
Then there are, of course, the sports stadiums – Lancashire County Cricket Club and Warrington Wolves.
Stephen Turner, Manchester Airport Group’s commercial director, added: “We’re incredibly proud of our relationship with Emirates and how the airline has flourished here over the last 25 years.
“Within a European context there aren’t many airports that are ‘pure A380’. It means we are in league with Frankfurt and London. Manchester is punching above its weight.
“But people want to fly from their local airport and we can deliver more than we are doing at the moment.”
Manchester now hosts more than 70 airlines and 200 worldwide destinations – more than any other airport outside London.