The Royal Exchange used to be a Manchester Airport terminal

The Royal Exchange was home to a city centre air terminal once upon a time.

The Manc The Manc - 13th September 2021

Head down to The Royal Exchange arches on Cross Street today, and you’ll find yourself in the humble, heartwarming labyrinthine of hygge homeware.

The cosy Danish retail outlet Sostrene Grene sits peacefully at the entrance point – inviting passers-by to pop in and peruse shelves upon shelves of simple, elegant Scandi-style products.

By offering people a tranquil escape from the racket of the city around them, Sostrene Grene is in a rather fitting spot. After all, this section of The Royal Exchange has historically been associated with people ‘getting away’.

Back in the 1950s, this where you came to arrange trips to faraway lands.

It was, for a time, the Manchester Air Terminal.

The old air terminal at The Royal Exchange where customers would check-in for their flights and board buses to the airport / Image: Manchester Libraries

The Manchester Air Terminal was moved from the corner of Oxford Street and Lower Mosley Street in the early fifties to The Royal Exchange – with the blue and silver buses parking up in St Ann’s Square.

Passengers were able to check in for their flights at the desks here and then board shuttle buses which would whisk patrons 10 miles south to Manchester Airport.


Services were direct and didn’t stop anywhere else along the way – connecting with specific flights due to take off on that date.

These airport buses would also bear the names of the flight destination – meaning at the time you would see vehicles trundling around the city with ‘Madrid’, ‘Zurich’ or ‘New York’ splashed across the front displays.

According to Manchester Archives, the Air Terminal catered for passengers flying with multiple airlines – including BEA, BOAC, Air France, Swissair and Sabena.


The Royal Exchange in 2021, of course, is a very different place – with the Air Terminal long since shut down and the iconic building now populated by retailers.

After being forced into hibernation for much of the year due to the pandemic, The Royal Exchange arcade has now fully reopened – filled with 40 outlets ranging from fashion stores to cafes.

For more information about the history and upcoming events at The Royal Exchange, visit the official website.

In celebration of the 100th birthday, The Royal Exchange is encouraging anyone who has any stories or pictures they’d like to share on social media to tag @royalexchangemanchester (Facebook and Instagram) or @TheRoyalExMcr (Twitter) and use the hashtag #ExchangeMemories.

Alternatively, people can email f[email protected] with #ExchangeMemories in the subject line.

Featured image: Manchester Airport