EUROPEAN Transport Commissioner Neil Kinnock opened Manchester Airport's £7.5 million "Superhub" today.

The former Labour leader unveiled a plaque to mark the occasion in the new fast track passenger transfer facility in the refurbished international Pier B, Terminal 1.

It enables business travellers to change from domestic to international flights (and vice versa) in a minimum connection time of 30 minutes during the peak morning and evening periods.

Airport officials say the record is three minutes.

The facility opened in April and currently assists 1,000 passengers a week.

A group of nine airlines operate into Superhub including main partners Business Air and Lufthansa.

Business Air connects passengers from Glasgow, Edinburgh, Dundee and Aberdeen with 13 European destinations.

These are Paris (Air France), Amsterdam (Air UK), Eindhoven and Rotterdam (Base Airlines), Vienna (Lauda Air), Billund (NewAir), Basle (Crossair), Oslo and Helsinki (SAS) and Frankfurt, Dusseldorf, Hamburg and Munich (Lufthansa).

Passengers are being saved a flight to London or a mainland European "hub."

Manchester Airport, which is the third largest in Britain, expects passengers to double to 30 million by 2005.

A £530 million development programme over 10 years includes the provision of a second runway, a £100 million re-development of Terminal 1 (now underway), further expansion of Terminal 2, improved surface transport links and more support facilities such as additional hotels, office blocks and maintenance hangers.

Guests at today's ceremony included senior airline representatives, MPs, MEPs and civic leaders.

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