Manchester Airport (MAN IATA) is one of the busiest and largest airports in Europe. The airport is in the south of Manchester, in the North West of England and is an excellent gateway to the north of the United Kingdom.
There are very few domestic air connections to Manchester. As of Jan 2023, British Airways flies from London Heathrow, Loganair from Inverness and Aberdeen, and EasyJet flies from Belfast.
Manchester Airport is a busy place, with some 28 million passengers per year, and dozens of operators (hence good competition) flying to almost 200 cities. There are 3 passenger terminals and two runways. There are excellent direct connections from across UK and Ireland, Europe, North America and the Caribbean, though flights from Asia and sub-Saharan Africa normally require a change of plane. (To see what's flying in and out, use an independent website such as flightstats.com - the airport's own website only lets you look for specific flights.) There is good ground transport, with frequent trains taking less than 20 min to city centre, and direct train services across the north of England and central Scotland.
The airport opened in 1938, almost immediately becoming a wartime RAF base, reverting to civilian use post-war. It used to be known as "Ringway" and is sometimes still called that. It was close to the city's southern ring-route but it was named for the village of Ringway, which in Anglo-Saxon was Hringhæg meaning a circular hedge around an enclosure. In the 1950s and 60s expansion was gradual: Britons didn't go abroad much, or took the ferry when they did. It was the height of sophistication if you flew from Manchester to the Isle of Man in a Silver City Airways Douglas Dakota. But then flights and passenger numbers boomed just as at other airports: first the Med and the Alps came within easy flying range, then Florida and the Caribbean. East Europe opened up as communism retreated and the stag parties marched in, and budget travel blossomed aided by the internet. The city itself became a destination, and attracted many overseas students. And Manchester Airport grew and grew and grew. Even those who still think of it as Ringway will struggle to recall a time when there wasn't some major expansion in hand, with mud and diversions on the approaches, and passenger corridors zigzagging round temporary partitions to a soundtrack of hammering and drilling.
The airport is owned by Manchester Airports Group, the ten local councils of Greater Manchester owning the majority share, with IMF Investors controlling the smaller stake. MAG also owns East Midlands and Stansted airports. The main project is to upgrade Terminal 2 by July 2020. Further expansion will continue there until 2022, at which point Terminal 1 will close. There are no plans to extend the runways, but the taxi-ways and parking stands are being enlarged to ease ground congestion.
Manchester Airport has three terminals, linked by an overhead covered walkway ("Skyway") to the transport hub of "The Station". T1 and T3 are adjacent 200 yards (5 min) walk south of The Station while T2 is 400 yards (10 min) walk northwest. There are travelators in the Skyway, but they're often out of action.
1 Terminal 1 has the most flights and the best facilities. Charter, budget and full-service airlines fly across Europe and the rest of the world, including Aegean, Aer Lingus, Air Transat, Aurigny, Austrian, BH Air, Belavia, easyJet, EL AL, Enter Air, Emirates, Etihad, Finnair, Icelandair, Iraqi Airways, Jet2, Lufthansa, Norwegian, Scandinavian, Swiss, TAP Air Portugal, Titan Airways, and Turkish Airlines. There are two check-in halls: the smaller Hall B, by the ground floor entrance, is only for Jet2 and Etihad. All other airlines use Hall A on the 5th floor (with Lufthansa hidden in a back lobby) - take the bank of lifts to your left immediately you enter T1. If you walk past them, you'll stray into the large arrivals area - lots of cafes here, plus arrivals boards to check your turnaround flight. After check-in, there are two security routes, used flexibly. Security A is sometimes congested while Security B is quiet, but staff will direct you to the one with the shorter queue (at quiet times they often reserve A for fast-track). Just after clearing security are cold water faucets/taps, your best chance to refill a bottle as all the other outlets (e.g. in toilets) are scalding to make you buy overpriced bottled water. You now enter a series of 3 retail malls: straight then winding then straight, uncannily like the digestive tract of a monster squeezing every drop of life-blood from its prey. You emerge into a concourse with gates 1-15 to the left, 20-32 to the right, gates 16-19 are usually used by the smaller planes and can be accessed by a corridor also used for lounge access. The two wings towards the gates have complimentary newspaper racks (Times and Sun) and more seating, but no retail/eating except a few vending machines. Gates 20, 24, and 26 are downstairs saloons for a bus transfer to the aircraft: they're often the quietest areas for sitting.
2 Terminal 2 has mainly intercontinental flights in wide-body jets, plus holiday charters whose passengers are unlikely to be connecting to another flight so the extra distance to reach T1/T3 is unimportant. Airlines include Air Canada, air Baltic, Air Malta, Belavia, Biman Bangladesh, Brussels Airlines, Cathay Pacific, Ethiopian Airlines, Eurowings, Hainan Airlines, Jet2.com, Oman Air, Pakistan International Airlines, Qatar Airways, Saudia, Singapore, Titan Airways, TUI, United, and Virgin Atlantic. A revamped Terminal 2 will open in July 2020 (although this is likely to be delayed to the current COVID-19 pandemic), and until then the facilities are cramped for the passenger numbers. There's a ground-floor satellite check-in area (Desks 201-212 next to Arrivals) for Air Canada, Brussels Airlines, and Eurowings. All others check-in on Floor D. From there you go upstairs to security, past a cold water refill, a duty-free mall then the food hall-cum-airside lounge. The corridors to the gates have complimentary newspaper racks and more seating, but no retail/eating. Flights departing from gates marked A1-A12 are in the newly opened pier and are a 10 minute walk from the main departure lounge.
3 Terminal 3 has short-hop domestic and European flights by Air France, British Airways, Iberia, KLM, Loganair, Ryanair, and Vueling. The smaller the aircraft, the likelier it is to be here, eg KLM Cityhopper turboprop routes. The odd man out in this is American Airlines, who fly large Boeings daily to Philadelphia. T3 is adjacent to T1 with a ground-level covered walkway between. The terminal seems to expand as you go in: the arrivals area at street level is just a draughty corridor with a couple of small shops and cafés. There's more eating and seating upstairs, which is the check-in area. Once airside through security, there's a good choice of facilities.
4 PremiAir calls itself a VIP terminal, but it's more like an extended fast track. For £100 per person, you check in just an hour before departure at a peaceful off-airport lounge along Old Wilmslow Road, they take your luggage and transfer you to the terminal for your flight, and you fast-track through security. There are similar packages for arrivals and round trips. It's available for any airline signed up to PremiAir, some two dozen of them. It doesn't include the airside VIP lounges since the point is to glide straight to the gate and bypass the usual tedious processes. PremiAir was launched with grand designs to serve luxury private aviation, but that market has withered, so now they're a sort of Meet & Greet with porterage. It's owned and run by the airport just like the standard terminals; in Nov 2019 the facility was upgraded.
Home bag pick-up can be booked through the airport website for all terminals. From £20 per bag, they collect your bags at an agreed time and location, but probably from your home the evening before your flight. The bags are sealed and delivered to the aircraft, you travel as if just with hand luggage, and collect the checked bags in the usual way in Arrivals at your destination. As of Jan 2020, they don't offer an inbound service, and there are no reviews on reliability - have you ever waited in for a delivery that was supposed to arrive at an agreed time?
Manchester Airport has excellent transport links to the city, and across the north of England and lowland / central Scotland. 1 The Station is the public transport hub, with trains, trams, local buses and long-distance coaches. Not much here while you're waiting apart from ticket offices and toilets, there are better facilities in Terminal 1 Arrivals, 5 min walk by the "Skyway". For hotels within the airport complex, use the Skyway towards T2 for the Radisson Blu, for all the others exit at street level.
- Wikivoyage has a guide to Rail travel in Great Britain
Trains run from the Station to Manchester Piccadilly every 15 min or less between 04:15 and 01:15, taking 15-20 min. Walk-up single fare is £6.20. Trains that are continuing to other northern cities may also stop at Manchester Oxford Road (for south city centre, eg Bridgewater Hall) and Victoria (for north city centre). Between 01:15 and 04:00 take the bus.
The trains to Piccadilly are usually nonstop, though a few stop at Healds Green or Gatley. For districts south of the centre it's often better to take the bus or tram, see below.
Transpennine Express trains run from the Station direct to:
- - Preston, Lancaster, Penrith and Carlisle hourly, then either to Lockerbie, Motherwell and Glasgow Central, or to Edinburgh.
- - Huddersfield, Leeds and York every 30 min, variously continuing to Darlington, Durham and Newcastle upon Tyne, to Thirsk, Northallerton and Middlesbrough, or to Scarborough.
- - Stockport, Sheffield, Doncaster, Scunthorpe, Grimsby and Cleethorpes hourly.
Northern trains run direct to:
- - Warrington and Liverpool Lime Street hourly, but it's usually quicker to change at Oxford Road.
- - Bolton, Preston and Blackpool North hourly; also via Preston and Lancaster to Morecambe and Barrow-in-Furness.
There are no direct trains to London Euston, Birmingham, Bristol and the south: change at Piccadilly or Crewe or Stockport. There are connections at Piccadilly for many other destinations, but it's a large station: transferring between the upper-level platforms (trains via Oxford Road) and the main terminus platforms will take ten minutes.
The Metrolink tram runs between the airport and city centre via Wythenshawe, Roundthorn, St Werburgh's Rd, Chorlton, Trafford Bar, Deansgate / Castlefield, St Peter's Square (and a dozen or so other stops), terminating at Victoria Station. It takes an hour and an adult single costs £4.60, so it's much slower than the train for no saving, and you'd only use it for southern burbs such as Wythenshawe. It runs 06:00-00:00 every 12 min; 03:00-06:00 it runs every 20 min as far as Deansgate / Castlefield. See Metrolink section for tram connections to East Didsbury, Stretford & Altrincham, Salford Quays & Eccles, Prestwich & Bury, Newton Heath, Oldham & Rochdale, and Ashton-under-Lyne.
Local buses are the only public transport at night. Stagecoach Bus 43 runs at least every 30 min round the clock from the Station to Wythenshawe, Sharston, Northenden, West Didsbury, Rusholme, Manchester University and Manchester Piccadilly Gardens, taking just over an hour. Daytime it's at least every 10 min.
Other local buses (from Station Stands D-K, all operated by Stagecoach) also run (as of mid-2019) approx 06:00-23:00 to:
- # 102 / 103 Wythenshawe, Sharston, Northenden, Southern Cemetery, Moss Side, Hulme and Manchester Piccadilly Gardens.
- # 199 Stockport, Stepping Hill, Disley, New Mills, Furness Vale, Whaley Bridge, Chapel-en-le-Frith, Peak Dale and Buxton.
- # 288 Hale, Altrincham, Timperley, Baguley, Northenden and Didsbury (E&W).
- # 330 Stockport, Bredbury, Woodley, Hyde, Dukinfield and Ashton-under-Lyne.
- # 368 Wythenshawe, Heald Green, Cheadle Hulme, Adswood, Edgeley and Stockport.
Coaches by National Express run from Station Stands A, B & C to Manchester coach station on Chorlton Street every 30 min. They take 20 min and an adult fare is about £5. Through the night they run at 00:55, 01:40, 03:20, 03:50 then 05:35 when daytime service resumes. Most inter-city services involve a connection at Chorlton Street, but there are some direct coaches from the airport to Liverpool, Wolverhampton, Birmingham, Leeds, Sheffield, London Victoria and Belfast.
The airport is a 20-min drive from Manchester city centre and is reached by the M56 motorway, with an approach spur from M56 junction 5. Minor local roads serve the airport from the north (Wythenshawe) and the east (Heald Green). Don't use these as short cuts to get out of town, it's always quicker to join the motorway.
Drop-off charges at the terminals or Station are £3 for 5 min or £4 for 10 min. Drop-off is free at Jetparks 1, half a mile north of the Station with a shuttle to all terminals.
Pick-up costs £4.50 for 30 min at any of the terminals; you may not pick up at the Station.
Taxis are available from outside each terminal, costing about £15 and taking 30-45 min to reach city centre.
Official car parks, ie those featured on the airport website, all have CCTV and entry / exit barriers using ANPR. They need to be pre-booked: no-notice parking is very expensive and may not be available. Vehicles must fit a standard car space, max height is typically 2 metres. As of late 2019 these are:
- Meet & Greet (all terminals) - hand over car and keys at the drop-off point within one minute's walk of the Terminal. On return, scan your receipt, a locked pigeon-hole will light up from which you collect keys and directions to your car.
- T1/T3 Mid-stay: 3-min walk to T3 and ten to T1.
- Multi-storey: two parks for T2 and one next to T1/T3. Maybe 5- to 10-min walk, but only two if you pay extra for a premium slot.
- Jetparks 1 & 2 are half a mile north of T1/T3 and T2. The bus when it comes only takes 5-10 min but there's often a long wait, factor that in or consider walking.
- Jetparks 3 and Ringway are a mile east off Styal Road, next to the runway but too far to walk, await the shuttle bus.
Independent car parks are dotted around the area. As of late 2019 they include APH in Sharston M22 4TE, Castle Hill Farm in Ashley WA15 0RE, and H&P in Styal SK9 4LH. Nearby hotels may also offer deals on stay-plus-parking.
This is a large airport, but by no means on the same scale as London Heathrow. From check-in to gate is never more than a 15-min walk, with no tram transfers.
All terminals are connected by the Skylink walkways, and travellators are used there and in many other spots to expedite your journey. Buses connect the airport car parks with the terminals.
Flight connections are via dedicated transit channels and you don't need to reclaim your baggage before boarding your next flight, except on Ryanair of course. With them you have to clear immigration and pick up your baggage from the first flight sector, then check in afresh and return through security for the next flight sector. Allow a minimum of three hours layover, buy fast-track for security, and don't expect much assistance from them if a delayed Ryanair first flight causes you to miss your Ryanair second flight.
The vast majority of shops and eateries are beyond the security check in all of the terminals at Manchester Airport so, in comparison with other airports, there is little point loitering in the check-in hall.
Escape Lounges (T1, T2 & T3), ☏ . Daily 04:15-20:30. These are in all terminals and available for a fee to all passengers. Lounge with free drinks and snacks, but extra charge for hot main dishes. Children admitted (full fee over age two) but no specific facilities for them. No groups larger than six admitted. £25 pre-booked, £30 walk-up for 3 hours access.
- Aspire Lounge (04:00-20:00) is for all passengers, adult £25, child £18.
- Emirates (05:00-21:00) is free for First and Business class, else reckon £120 pp with tax, kinda steep for Wifi and a snack.
- 1903 is now the name of the Etihad Lounge. It's open 06:00-10:30 and 17:30-20:30, which is okay if their flights go off on time, but less than helpful when they don't. It's £45 to use if you're not otherwise eligible.
- Aspire Lounge (04:00-20:00) is for all passengers, adult £25, child £18.
- v-room is only for Virgin Holidays customers, adult £20 and child £12, open 3 hours before their flights.
- British Airways (05:00-20:00) is for First and Business class on BA, American and Iberia.
- 1903 (open 05:10-20:30) £35 pre-booked, £40 walk-up for two hours access. Age 18+ only, no children. Free drinks including alcohol. Groups larger than four are not admitted even if they book singly, so you need to act nonchalant and sit alone with your first drink before accidentally bumping into your rugby mates awaiting the flight to Paris CDG.
Eat and drink
Terminal 1 groundside has Joe's Kitchen, Pret and Greggs. Airside are Bar MCR, Burger King, Cafe Balzar, Costa, Giraffe, Mi Casa Burritos, PizzaLuxe, another Pret, Starbucks, Grain Loft and Upper Crust.
Terminal 2 groundside has nothing until the terminal upgrade is completed. Airside are Brodericks, Burger King, Cabin, Caffè Nero, Camden Food, Greggs, Spinning Jenny and Upper Crust.
Terminal 3 groundside has Caffè Nero. Airside are Costa, Delice de France, Flat White, KFC, Kiosco, Pork & Pickle, Lion and Antelope, The Nook, and Trattoria Milano.
Money: only if you're otherwise stuck. Holders of UK debit cards can withdraw pounds from ATMs at no extra charge but anything else is costly. The currency exchange provider is ICE, whose rates are 25% either side of bank rate for major currencies. So if you changed US$100 to pounds then back again, you'd get $56. Rates for minor currencies are far worse; and believe it or not, the rates at some other UK airports are worse still. Use your bank card to pay for transport into city centre and exchange there.
Duty-free - the franchiser is Biza, and they'd rather you didn't make realistic price comparisons, so they compare with a mythical entity called "the High Street". But in Nov 2019, a litre of Tanqueray Gin was £14 for non-EU destinations and £18 for EU, while UK supermarkets were asking £20-25 but maybe only £15 for own-label gin.
Familiar retailers found in all terminals are:
- - Dixons for small electricals eg travel adapters - who on earth buys their 52" plasma screen TVs then flies them to Santorini in the overhead locker??
- - Boots the Chemist for aspirin, travel adapters, overpriced sunblock but fairly-priced sandwiches;
- - WHSmith for newspapers, magazines, books or drinks. Sure you've got enough travel adapters?
- - Fashion and accessory outlets are Bobbi Brown, Clarins, Dune London, Hamley's, Jo Malone, Pandora and Temptation.
All mobile network providers have a good signal in and around the airport, but if you weren't already switched on, it may take a few minutes to acquire a connection. You're competing with everyone on the runways who've just been told they may re-connect their mobiles.
Wi-Fi is free throughout the airport for 60 min per 24 hours. A premium service is available for longer usage and faster download, ideal for watching industrial quantities of YouTube videos before your flight. Prices are £5 for an hour, £10 per day and £30 per month.
Shower facilities are located in Terminal 2, and cost £6.50 per person. Two multi-faith prayer rooms are situated in Terminals 2 and 3. Terminals 1 and 2 offer outdoor air-side smoking areas to comply with the United Kingdom's smoking ban.
There are four hotels within the airport complex: the Radisson Blu, Crowne Plaza, Clayton and Hilton. (Google Map also shows Voyager House, but this is just offices.) Others listed here are so close that you might travel via the airport to reach them, even if you weren't flying. Several more that may be convenient but a little further out are listed under Manchester/South, Wilmslow and Altrincham.
- 1 Radisson Blu Hotel Manchester Airport, Chicago Ave, Hale, M90 3RA (next to Station), ☏ , fax: , firstname.lastname@example.org. Gets excellent reviews for comfort and service. Leisure facilities and meeting rooms, restaurant and health club. B&B double £150.
- 2 Crowne Plaza Manchester Airport, Ringway Road, Wythenshawe, Hale, M90 3NS (300 m east of Station), ☏ , email@example.com. Good reliable hotel, now part of IHG chain. Clean and mostly quiet. Two restaurants on site, free shuttle bus, walkable from Station. B&B double £170.
- 3 Clayton Hotel Manchester Airport (formerly Bewleys Hotel), Outwood Lane, Hale, M90 4HL (next to Station), ☏ , firstname.lastname@example.org. Decent hotel, quiet and clean. B&B double £120.
- 4 DoubleTree by Hilton Manchester Airport, Outwood Lane M90 4WP (next to Station), ☏ , email@example.com. Average convenient airport hotel. From Station exit at street level, don't go up to walkways. Free shuttle to terminals, walkable though sidewalks are a mess. B&B double £160.
- There's a cluster of hotels at 5 M56 jcn 6, the junction with A538 Wilmslow Road. These include the Marriott, Premier Inn, Holiday Inn Express, and Oakcroft Guesthouse.
- 6 Etrop Grange, Thorley Lane M90 4EG (500 m north of T2 and 1 km from T1 / T3), ☏ , firstname.lastname@example.org. Georgian mansion now engulfed by airport development. Gets lukewarm reviews, basically okay and value for money but tired facilities, with no lift to upper floor. Meals served in bar & grill. Free airport shuttle 05:00-22:00. B&B double £110.
- 7 Airport Inn Manchester, Altrincham Rd, Wilmslow SK9 4LR (A538 just south of runway), ☏ . Budget chain hotel. Ten-minute shuttle transfer to airport, on-site stay/park packages available. Those are its only redeeming features: travellers consistently bewail lost bookings, bad check-in experience and service, and noisy, damp-smelling rooms. If MAN ever extends its runways, please let it be over this place. B&B double £65.
Manchester city centre takes 20 min by train from the airport, but allow at least 90 min to return since you have to clear security. Bear in mind, if you decide to escape a long delay, that local airlines can briskly whistle up a spare aircraft and crew if that's what it takes to beat a technical problem, and claims for compensation. Your flight that was showing as indefinitely delayed may suddenly advance to a boarding call. If the delay was through bad weather, that could also hit your return transport, and how much fun will it be to wrench your ankle in Piccadilly in the slush?
Manchester Airport Visitor Park is located on the south-western side of the airport and is well worth a visit for any aviation enthusiast. It's home to the flagship of the British Airways Concorde fleet, and offers excellent views over the airport apron, taxiways and runways.
The Airport Hotel is a pub on Ringway Road about ½ mi (800 m) from the airport. Its beer garden overlooks the east end of Taxiway J and the eastern threshold of runway 23R which are only 50 ft (15 m) away and provides good views of east-west landing approaches and some take-off rolls.
Quarry Bank is only 3 mi (5 km) by road or 4 min by train from the airport, but it's a world away in feel. This large National Trust site covers a preserved cotton mill, estate and workers' village, and excels in its presentation of both industrial and social history. As the site is utterly absorbing and entrance fees rather pricey, allow at least two hours (and ideally twice as long) to explore.
|Routes through Manchester Airport|
|Chester ← Altrincham ←||W N||→ Cheadle → Central Manchester/Stockport|