The airport opened in 1938, almost immediately becoming a wartime RAF base, reverting to civilian use post-war. It was originally known as "Ringway" and is sometimes still called that. It was close to the city's southern ring-route but it's 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 MAG (an Australian holding company) plus the ten local councils of Greater Manchester; MAG also owns East Midlands and Stansted airports. The main project in 2019 is to upgrade Terminal 2 by spring 2020. There are no plans to extend the runways, but an extra taxi-way might be built to ease ground movements.
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.
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, 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, 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. You emerge into a concourse with 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 levels. 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 bus transfer to the aircraft: they're often the quietest areas for sitting.
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.
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.
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.
By trainWikivoyage 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:
Northern trains run direct to:
Transport for Wales trains run direct hourly to Chester (1 hr 20 min), Prestatyn, Rhyl, Colwyn Bay and Llandudno (2 hr 30 min). Change at Chester for Wrexham.
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.
By tramThe 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:
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.
By carThe 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.
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.
LoungesManchester has passenger lounges in all terminals, some of which are available for a fee:
phone: +44 871 200 4450Lounge with free drinks and snacks, but extra charge for hot main dishes.
- Etihad Airways
- Virgin Holidays
- British Airways
1903The 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.
Eat and drink
Terminal 1Terminal 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 2Terminal 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 3Terminal 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.
Duty-free (so-called) - 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:
TelephonesSignal on UK mobile networks is normally good within the airport area and payphones are available in each of the airport's terminals.
Wi-FiWi-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.
phone: +44 161 490 5000address: Chicago Ave, Hale, M90 3RAGets excellent reviews for comfort and service. Leisure facilities and meeting rooms, restaurant and health club.
phone: +44 161 498 4000address: Ringway Road, Wythenshawe, Hale, M90 3NSGood reliable hotel, now part of IHG chain. Clean and mostly quiet. Two restaurants on site, free shuttle bus, walkable from Station.
phone: +44 161 498-0333address: Outwood Lane, Hale, M90 4HLDecent hotel, quiet and clean.
phone: +44 161 435 3000address: Outwood Lane M90 4WPAverage 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.
- There's a cluster of hotels at , the junction with A538 Wilmslow Road. These include the Marriott, Premier Inn, Holiday Inn Express, and Oakcroft Guesthouse.
phone: +44 161 499 0500address: Thorley Lane M90 4EGGeorgian 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.
phone: +44 871 221 0247address: Altrincham Rd, Wilmslow SK9 4LRBudget 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.
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.