Manchester Airport (MAN IATA) is one of the busiest and largest airports in Europe. The airport is located in the south of Manchester, in the North West of England and is an excellent gateway to the north of the United Kingdom. It is a hub for low-cost airline Flybe.
The city of Manchester often lays claim to the title of 'second city' in the United Kingdom and, in the airport stakes at least, this claim is well and truly justified — this is the second-largest airport in the UK, and third busiest, and is amongst the 50 largest airports in the world. Nearly 100 operators fly to and from nearly 200 locations worldwide, including most major cities in Europe, along with services to the Americas, Africa, and Asia.
With a history dating back to before the Second World War, Manchester (previously [and still occasionally!] known as 'Ringway') bears testament to many architectural 'styles'. In some places, the combination of moulded grey plastics and psychedelic carpet patterns makes for a heady 1980s experience, but much of the airport has been renovated and redeveloped.
Unlike the UK's largest airport, Heathrow, Manchester is municipally owned by the 10 Greater Manchester Councils with Manchester City council having the largest share (55%) and the other councils 5% each. For every M&M dispenser and multi-pack of cigarettes (as well as anything else) you buy, you're probably saving someone, somewhere, some money on their council tax!
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 mins walk south of The Station while T2 is 400 yards / 10 mins walk northwest. There are travelators in the Skyway, but they're often out of action.
1 Terminal 1 has most flights and the best facilities. Charter, budget and full-service airlines fly across Europe and the rest of the world, including Aer Lingus, EasyJet, Emirates, Etihad, Jet2, Lufthansa, Scandinavian, TAP Air Portugal, Swiss 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, both halls have their own security routes, but these are flexible. Security A is sometimes congested while Security B is quiet, but staff will direct you to the one with the shorter queue. Just after clearing security are cold water faucets, your best chance to refill a bottle as all the other outlets (eg 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. The final area has gates 1-15 to the left, 20-32 to the right, and the missing gates have become the main eating and drinking area on two floors. The two wings to the gates have complimentary newspaper racks (Times and Sun) and more seating, but no retail / eating except a few vending machines.
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 Malta, Cathay Pacific, Eurowings, Pakistan International Airlines, Qatar Airways, Singapore, TUI, United and Virgin Atlantic. A revamped Terminal 2 will open in summer 2020, and until then the facilities are small 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.
3 Terminal 3 has short-hop domestic and European flights by British Airways, Flybe, Iberia, KLM and Ryanair. The smaller the aircraft, the likelier it is to be here, eg Flybe and KLM Cityhopper turboprop routes. T3 is adjacent to T1 with a ground-level covered walkway between.
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; and similarly for arrivals. It's available for any airline signed up to PremiAir. 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.
Manchester Airport has excellent transport links to the city itself, 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 mins 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 the United Kingdom.
Trains run from the Station to Manchester Piccadilly every 15 mins or less between 04:15 and 01:15, taking 15-20 mins. Walk-up single fare is £4.70. 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 mins, 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 mins; 03:00-06:00 it runs every 20 mins 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 mins 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 mins.
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 mins. They take 20 mins 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-minute 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 mins or £4 for 10 mins. 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 mins 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 minutes 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 mid-2019 these are:
- Meet & Greet (all Terminals) - hand over car and keys at the drop-off point within one minute's walk to Departures.
- T1/T3 Mid-stay: three mins walk to T3 and ten to T1.
- Multi-storey: two parks for T2 and one next to T1/T3. Maybe 5-10 mins 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 mins 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 mid-2019 they include APH in Sharston M22 4TE, Peter Ashley in Heald Green M22 5LS, 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. The distance from check-in to gate is never more than 15 mins walk, with no tram transfers.
All terminals are connected by 'skylinks', and 'travellators' are used across much of the airport to expedite your journey. Buses connect the airport's car parks with the terminal buildings.
Flight connections are via dedicated channels and you don't need to reclaim your baggage before boarding your next 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.
Manchester has passenger lounges in all terminals, some of which are available for a fee:
- Escape Lounges (Terminals 1,2 & 3), ☏ . Lounge with free drinks and snacks, but extra charge for hot main dishes. £22.50 pre-booked, £27.50 on the day for up to 3 hours access.
- Etihad Airways
- Virgin Holidays
- British Airways
- 1903. Su-F: 4:15AM-8:30PM, Sa 4:15AM-7:30PM. The lounge has a complimentary buffet food and drink (including alcoholic beverages), printing and scanning facilities and unlimited Wi-Fi. Also a fast track security pass is included in the price. People under 16 years of age and groups larger than four are not allowed. £35 pre-booked, £40 turn-up.
Eat and drink
All the terminals at Manchester Airport are well-equipped to suit all tastes and provide a range of culinary 'experiences'.
Terminal 1 is home to a variety of eateries, including fast food vendors such as Burger King, table-service restaurants like Giraffe, the Grain Loft pub and coffee shops like Starbucks.
There is a drinking water fountain in Terminal 1 right after the security check before you enter the duty free shopping area, where you can refill your empty water bottles.
Terminal 2 provides a great number of different places to seek refreshment and sate even the largest of appetites: from fast food at yet another Burger King to Italian-American fare at Frankie and Benny's and pub fare at the Spinning Jenny via the caffeine dispensary Caffè Nero for those of you taking early morning flights.
Terminal 3 also caters to a great variety of tastes. Costa Coffee provides the normal range of hot beverages and snacks, whilst The Food Village offers quick food for those in a hurry. If you have a little more time on your hands Terminal 3 is also home to Trattoria Milano — an Italian restaurant, and the Lion and Antelope a pub with hot food. The pub serves drinks from the first flight, and caters well to the stags and hens prior to boarding their holiday flights.
Money: only if you're otherwise stuck. Holders of UK debit cards can withdraw £ 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 100 US$ to £ then back again, you'd get 56$. Rates for minor currencies are far worse; and believe it or not, the rates at some other airports are worse still. Use your bank card to pay for transport into city centre and exchange there.
Manchester Airport has a wide variety of shopping options for the retail-conscious including the obligatory 'duty-free' shop (only tax-free for flights outside of the European Union!).
Each terminal has a branch of the ubiquitous (at least in airports) Dixons (a consumer electronics retailer), where you can pick up travel adapters and, should you so desire, a 52 inch plasma screen television to take on your flight with you. There is also a branch of the British high-street chemist Boots in each terminal, for last-minute aspirin, travel-adapters and rather nice (and fairly priced) pre-packaged sandwiches. The high-street newsagent WHSmith also maintains a presence in each of Manchester's terminals (to the extent at which one can barely move for branches). Smith's (as it's also known) is the place to grab a newspaper (outrageous British tabloid or more respectable broadsheet), magazine, book or drink, as well as yet more all-important travel adapters.
British clothing retailers also operate at Manchester Airport. Monsoon (Terminals 1 & 2) and Next (Terminal 1) offer popular high-street fashions if you've neglected to bring any clothes.
Signal on UK mobile networks is normally good within the airport area and payphones are available in each of the airport's terminals.
Wi-Fi is free throughout the airport for up to 60 minutes every 24 hours. A 'premium' service is also available which offers service beyond that, as well as faster download speeds, and allows for heavier usage — perfect 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: , ✉ email@example.com. 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), ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. 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), ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. Decent hotel, quiet and clean. B&B double £120.
- 4 Hilton Manchester Airport, Outwood Lane M90 4WP (next to Station), ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. 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), ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. 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 Airport is a gateway not just to the city of Manchester, a post-industrial gem, but the entire British Isles. The airport is centrally located for the Greater Manchester area, as well as the entirety of Northern England. There are good rail connections from Scotland and a gruesome coach service.
The 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 0.5 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.
|Routes through Manchester Airport|
|Central Manchester/Stockport ← Cheadle ←||N W||→ Altrincham → Chester|