UPDATE 2.45PM: NEWQUAY Cornwall Airport has responded to news that Flybe will scrap its London service from next March, saying it signified “no loss in confidence in the airport’s viability”.
Managing director Al Titterington also commented on statistics revealed today that show passenger numbers have dropped for the fifth year running.
In a statement he said: “The sale of the slots was not an unexpected announcement given Gatwick Airport’s strategy over the last few years to out price smaller regional aircraft operators such as Flybe. The Airport has been in discussions with several other carriers in respect of operating a daily return service from Newquay to London.
“Nearly 100,000 passengers used the busy London route in 2012 providing valuable connectivity to the business community so we are confident another airline will see the value of the opportunity.We wish to confirm there is no expected disruption to our current three daily flights to Gatwick or the other services operated by Flybe in our 2013-14 schedule and Flybe will continue their normal operations until March 29, 2014.
“Although the loss of this route by Flybe is a blow it does not signify any loss of confidence in the airport’s viability to deliver essential services to the residents of Devon and Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly. The airport is a key part of the transport infrastructure serving the South West and is a vital gateway for travellers visiting Cornwall.
“We are very aware that since 2008 the passenger numbers have been in decline with the 2012-13 financial year figures being around 173,000. Far from ignoring this, the airport team is proactively pursuing several opportunities for services from Newquay. Examples of this are the new EasyJet routes and the expanding availability of package holidays. Several factors that contributed to the decline in passenger numbers were out of our control, such as Air Southwest ceasing to operate in its entirety in September 2011.
“Alongside the passenger business we are building up a significant and sustainable revenue channel from other aerodrome activities, such as property rental and development. We are confident that Newquay Cornwall Airport is well placed to serve the region’s demand for air travel.”
NEWQUAY Cornwall Airport has suffered a double blow today as passenger figures reveal a drop for the fifth consecutive year and Flybe announces plans to scrap its London flights.
The airline will stop running its Gatwick service on March 29 next year, blaming airport charges, air passenger duty and “penalistic” government policy for the decision.
It has sold all of its arrival and departure slots at Gatwick to rival company Easyjet for £20 million.
The Cornish Guardian understands that other Flybe services from Newquay - to Belfast, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Manchester, Newcastle and Norwich - will be unaffected.
Passengers will still be able to fly to the capital with Easyjet, which will begin flights to London Southend from June 20 this year.
Jim French, Flybe’s Chairman and Chief Executive, criticised Gatwick bosses for pricing regional airlines out of operating at their airport with an increase in charges of 102 per cent.
He said: “No business can swallow such a massive increase in such a short period of time and it is with real regret and some anger that we have made this decision. Flybe fully appreciates the implications this will have not only on South West passengers but also on the wider regional economy which has come to rely on the convenient lifeline connections we provide to Gatwick.
“However, we have to accept the ugly reality that Gatwick simply doesn’t want smaller, regional aircraft at their airport and, with the absence of a regional aviation strategy and the government’s penalistic and ludicrous policy of charging Air Passenger Duty (APD) on both legs of a domestic flight, I’m afraid it’s inevitable that high frequency services from the UK’s regions will ultimately be squeezed out of Gatwick, as they have been from Heathrow.”
The news comes as statistics reveal Newquay Cornwall Airport served 174,000 passengers last year – 25,000 fewer than in 2011.
In 2008, 431,000 passengers used the airport. But the following year that figure had dropped to 347,000 and numbers have continued to drop.
Air South West, which had been responsible for 45 per cent of passengers. pulled out of the airport in September 2011. BMI Baby which ran regular services to and from Cornwall went out of business last year.
The airport is subsidised by Cornish taxpayers to the tune of around £3 million a year.
Newquay and St Austell MP Stephen Gilbert said: “The link between London and Cornwall is absolutely vital for Cornwall’s economy; providing a route to market in the south east of England and further afield for Cornish goods and services, as well as an efficient link for visitors to get to Cornwall.
“I am disappointed that Flybe are not able to continue with this route but hopeful that EasyJet’s operation will be of sufficient scale to ensure it continues. I have already spoken to EasyJet today and look forward to continuing to work with them over the coming weeks.”