Ryanair chief executive Michael O'Leary has expressed support for London Stansted airport's application to raise its annual cap on passenger numbers by eight million to 43 million.
"Stansted's potential and spare capacity remains untapped," O'Leary states. "So it's vital to make best and efficient use of the existing infrastructure to provide more growth opportunities and greater value for consumers at a time when runway capacity is more constrained in the southeast of England."
Announcing the submission of its planning application yesterday, Stansted said the extra capacity would "ease pressure on the London airport system by unlocking additional capacity at a time when other airports are full".
It adds that the increase in passengers is achievable "within current approved limits on aircraft noise and flight numbers" thanks to the "next generation of new, quieter aircraft" such as the Boeing 737 Max jets ordered by Ryanair and the Airbus A320neos being taken by EasyJet.
The proposal is based on Stansted continuing to operate a single runway, but would involve "additional airfield infrastructure within the current airfield boundary".
Stansted, which is operated by Manchester Airports Group, expects to reach its current passenger cap of 35 million by "the early 2020s".
FlightGlobal schedules data for February shows Ryanair is by far the largest operator at the facility, accounting for 74% flights, or 4,140, over the month. EasyJet is operating 712 flights, while Jet2 and Eurowings are responsible for just under 200 services each.
In the latest FlightGlobal airport rankings – based on 2016 data – Stansted was the UK's fourth-busiest airport, behind Heathrow, Gatwick and Manchester.