Liverpool Airport defers repayment of £30m loan

Liverpool John Lennon Airport defers repayment of £30m loan from the City Region Combined Authority for 12 months as latest passenger figures show a strong post-pandemic recovery. Tony McDonough reports

Liverpool John Lennon Airport
Liverpool John Lennon Airport is seeing passneger numbers rise rapidly


Passenger numbers at Liverpool John Lennon Airport (LJLA) are recovering strongly post-pandemic and are up to 78% of the last pre-COVID year.

LJLA has also agreed a deal with Liverpool City Region Combined Authority to defer repayment of £30m of a £34m lifeline loan agreed in the summer of 2020 at the height of the pandemic.

In the last few weeks the airport has published its annual accounts on Companies House for the year to March 31, 2022. They cover a period when the aviation sector was still severely affected by the global COVID crisis.

They reveal passenger numbers for the 12-month period of 1.6m. This is down on the last pre-COVID annual figure of 4.8m passengers for the year to March 2020. However, it was a big improvement on the worst-hit COVID year to March 31, 2021, when they fell 89% to just 535,117.

Now LJLA has told LBN that, for the 12 months to March 31 this year, a period when it was still very much in the recovery phase, it handled 3.77m passengers. This is a year-on-year rise of more than 135% and equates to 78% of the total for the last pre-COVID year.

With Ryanair, easyJet and Lufthansa all significantly pushing up capacity on existing routes, and launching new ones, the airport could see passenger numbers return to pre-pandemic levels this year.

In February this year Ryanair announced four new routes out of Liverpool in an £80m investment that will see overall capacity increase by 15% and create 30 new jobs. It will take the total number of routes to 31 and will see a new aircraft based at LJLA.

Its main rival easyJet has upped its capacity by almost 20%. It is increasing frequencies to popular destinations including Alicante, Antalya, Belfast, Bodrum, Dalaman, Izmir, Heraklion, Jersey, Kos, Larnaca, Malaga, Nice and Tenerife.

In late April Aer Lingus returned to Liverpool for the first time since 2016 with a new route to Dublin. Emerald Airlines, which operates Are Lingus’s regional services, will offer 11 departures a week to the Irish capital.

It will operate on Mondays, Thursdays, Fridays and Sundays using a 72-seat ATR72-600 aircraft. Passengers flying to Dublin will be able to seamlessly connect onto flights to New York JFK, Washington, Chicago, Boston and Philadelphia.

This has given LJLA its third global hub link. German carrier Lufthansa began its hub link between Liverpool and Frankfurt in May 2022 and has since increased frequency. It offers onward flights to multiple global destinations.

And in October 2022 Icelandic airline PLAY launched its new route offering ‘seamless’ onward connections to US cities Washington, Boston and New York via Reykjavik.

These latest accounts show LJLA generated revenues of £15.1m for the year to March 31, 2022. This was almost double the £8m for the previous year but well below the £36.7m for the year to March 31, 2020.

Pre-tax losses narrowed to £4.87m from £12m. Pre-tax losses for the last pre-pandemic year were £926,000.

Its single biggest revenue stream was its car parking facilities which generated £5.3m. Just under £4.5m came from the airlines and income from retailers was around £4m.

Average employee numbers for the period was 144, this is down from 196 pre-pandemic. Many of the people who work at the airport are not directly employed by LJLA.

Liverpool Airport’s parent company is Liverpool Airport (Intermediate) No 1 Ltd. The two biggest shareholders in the business are property and ports giant Peel and infrastructure investment manager Ancala Partners. Each holds a 47.1% stake.

Liverpool City Council owns a 5.8% stake in the airport. As recently as September 2019 the authority owned a 20% stake. At that point it sold half of its shareholding for £19m, a big profit on its original investment of £2m.


ryanair, aircraft
Ryanair is increasing capacity and creating jobs at Liverpool Airport
Liverpool Airport
Emerald Airlines’ Ciarán Smith with LJLA’s Paul Winfield at the Aer Lingus launch


In the latest accounts, the parent company has offered an assurance that it will “continue to provide the necessary level of support to enable the company to continue to operate for the foreseeable future, defined as at least the next 12 months”.

Under the direction of Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram, the Combined Authority offered LJLA a £34m loan in summer 2020, when COVID was having a devastating impact on the global aviation industry.

Speaking at the time, Mr Rotheram said: “International connectivity is essential for the local economy and the roles of international gateways such as ports, airports and cruise terminals as economic hubs and drivers for local economies and tourism need to be maximised.

“That is why it is right that today we have agreed this loan facility to provide stability for the airport, its passengers and other users during the COVID-19 recovery period.”

There is still £30m outstanding on the loan, which is classed as senior debt (a debt with a higher priority over other forms of debt). This was due to be repaid on March 31 this year but, on March 9, the CA agreed to defer repayment for another 12 months.

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