Manchester Airport celebrates its 80th birthday



A programme of events is being prepared to celebrate Manchester Airport reaching the milestone of 80 years.

The airport’s “oak anniversary” celebrations will emphasise its regional roots and global branches, telling the story of its evolution from a single wooden hut in 1938 to its status as the UK’s third largest airport today.

Activities will take place either side of Manchester Airport’s official birthday (25th June) and will look forward to how the gateway will be transformed through the £1bn investment programme currently underway.

Manchester Day

A key part of the celebrations will be the airport’s central role in this year’s Manchester Day parade on 17th June.

Manchester Day is an annual event that celebrates everything great about the city – and the perfect way for the airport to celebrate becoming an octogenarian in style!

The airport is the official partner for this year’s event, with a special interactive float being designed for the occasion.

It will tell the story of Manchester Airport’s development through the decades, as well as highlighting its current network of more than 220 different destinations around the globe (which is more than any other UK airport).

Bee in the City

During its birthday week, Manchester Airport will join forces with the Bee in the City campaign, taking the wraps off a giant bee in its Ground Transport Interchange.

The bee will have a theme of “80 days around the world”, again pointing to the airport’s extensive route network.

It will be one of the many bees that eventually go on auction to raise funds for the I Love Manchester fund.


The airport is set to open up its archives whilst curating a special exhibition of artefacts from across the decades.

These include old airline memorabilia, uniforms and antique luggage scales, some not having been seen for many years! These will go on display at the airport’s Runway Visitor Park for its thousands of visitors to see, free of charge.

Aviation & Transport Festival

Also taking place at the Runway Visitor Park is the annual Aviation & Transport Festival which will be celebrating all things ‘80’ with classic cars and vehicles, historic military transport and aviation exhibits on 30th June and 1st July.


Manchester Airport will be partnering with airline KLM, who operated the very first commercial flight to depart, on 27th June 1938 to Amsterdam via Doncaster.

The Dutch national carrier is planning a range of activities to celebrate the milestone with its passengers.

Ivo Steffens, head of commercial for Air France KLM said: “We are extremely proud to be celebrating 80 years of operation from Manchester Airport this summer, a significant milestone in the long partnership between KLM and the Manchester region.

“Having commenced operations with a Douglas DC2 back in 1938, we now offer the local community five daily flights between Manchester and Amsterdam, with many of our passengers travelling onwards to our extensive network of 165 destinations worldwide.

“We are looking forward to celebrating this milestone with our customers and are confident that our continued investment in both our product and route network will further support both tourism and local business in the region.”


A range of activities for communities surrounding the airport will also be delivered as part of the celebrations.

The airport made a pledge to plant 80 oak trees around the region, working with community organisations to decide on their locations.

There will also be a host of 80th birthday tea parties and a schools’ competition to design the airport’s official birthday card.

Social media

All of these activities will be backed up with exclusive content on the airport’s social media platforms where fans and followers can engage with facts, figures, videos and much more.

There will also be a few high-profile surprises still to be announced in the coming weeks.

Andrew Cowan, CEO of Manchester Airport, commented: “Marking 80 years is a milestone everyone at the airport is incredibly proud of.

“As we look back, it is clear to see Manchester is a totally different airport to when it first opened in 1938, but we have never lost sight of our local roots and the important role we play in the lives of those living and working around us.”

He added: “As passenger numbers have grown, along with the number of places we fly to, so have the benefits we deliver to the region, in terms of the number of jobs created, businesses supported through our investment or the trade and tourism links we provide.

“I look forward to the coming years and seeing the airport develop through our £1bn transformation programme that will see Manchester continue to be a world-class airport for all of the North.”

Manchester Airport (now the UK’s third largest airport) was officially opened on Saturday 25th June 1938 with an air display by the Royal Air Force at the command of His Majesty’s Secretary of State for Air, Sir Kingsley Wood.

Operations began two days later and in the first 12 months the airport handled 7,600 passengers, which today is the equivalent of one morning’s operation during the summer season.


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