Tuesday, 31 May 2011


© Copyright Nick Smith and licensed for reuse. This is not an endorsement of my post.
A study by York Aviation on the economic impact of night flights – paid for by Manston Airport's owners Infatril – has tried to quash the case for 'no night flights' arguing that allowing flying between 11pm and 7am would help bring more than 3,000 jobs to the area. Would it be fair to speculate whether this is merely the PR machine cranking up the ante, pushing the results of a study which undermines the logic of those who campaign for 'no night flights'? 

Is this study really trying to imply that opposition to night flights will only keep people unemployed? With the closure of Pfizer and the loss of 2,400 jobs or more, it's easy to see how this might sway local people into feeling that allowing night flights is the sensible option, on the basis that it will magic jobs out of thin air. But is there more to this story than meets the eye? Of course there is. Would Infatril really pay for a study which contradicts their preferred business plan for Manston Airport? I say no.

From the outset, this study was probably bound to have an implicit pro-night flight stance, so we should definitely treat it with some misgivings. It even states on This Is Kent that:

"York Aviation is in the process of finalising the second part of the research which will assess the impact that the imposition of a stringent night movement policy would have on the airport's economic impact and commercial operation."

In other words, I'm willing to guess that these studies are more than likely going to lend credence to Infatril's masterplan. This first study, stressing the amount of jobs that may be created by allowing night flights, has an optimistic spin, so the second one will probably be more pessimistic, replete with doom-laden predictions intended to spook people into allowing Infatril to do whatever the hell they want. However, judging by the large amount of publicity this story has been getting, there is a risk that people will take this study at face value and lose sight of the bigger picture.

According to the latest unemployment figures, 4,382 people are unemployed in Thanet, so it's clear that jobs are sorely needed. But to take heed of a study which is eager to present itself as the saviour of the local economy may not be particularly wise, especially if an AEF study by Brendon Sewill on the “dubious statistical concepts” which airport consultants use to make future job forecasts is anything to go by. Sewill states:

“The suggestion that a new or expanded airport will create more jobs is a sure way to attract support from the public and a fair wind from the planners. Naturally airport companies and airlines make the most of this. Yet because they have a commercial interest in magnifying the number of new jobs, their figures need careful examination.”

Sewill also states the following:

“With the current recession, when thousands are losing their jobs, any promise of more jobs is welcome. Airports and airlines for their own commercial reasons tend, however, to exaggerate the number of jobs that will be created by airport expansion.”

Exaggerate, you say? For those of us who like to hear both sides of this argument, it's worth heading over to the No Night Flights website in which they argue that in comparison to job forecasts by other airports such as Gatwick and Stansted, Manston's job forecasts are by far the highest. This should ring alarm bells to people and does warrant further scrutiny.

Ultimately, we need to remind ourselves that Infatril's goal is to make a profit. What matters so much more than that is making sure the wishes of local residents are respected. Therefore, if this study really is built on hyperbolic statistics, then it's important to resist the urge to be convinced by its obvious one-sidedness. I hope people take a more balanced view on the pro's and con's of this issue rather than merely taking this study as gospel. After all, we may want jobs, but it should be on our terms, not Infatril's.


  1. Unfortunately this debate goes from the 'No to Night Flights' stance of the Thanet Labour and anti-airport group to the, possibly, over optimistic aims of Infratil. What is so obviously needed is an in depth independent study to present the case properly.

    Looking around the country, what is evident is that wherever there is a flourishing regional airport there is increased prosperity and job prospects. It is not just the work on the airport, but the other businesses that spring up as a result.

    In Thanet, not unknown for its Nimby stance on everything from the Turner Contemporary to Thanet Earth, the flat rejection of even consultation on night flights makes it very difficult to progress or even establish the true prospects.

    As to your final comment, Luke, how can you have a world where jobs are only created on the terms of the prospective employers. Having myself, several times, uprooted my family and moved to get work, I would suggest that is nonsense. Surely most of us, including yourself probably, have done jobs we were not exactly over the moon about in order to earn a living. We should not reject Manston airport or a proper study on it out of hand. Sadly, some in Thanet are doing just that.

  2. Its about time Thanet realises that the Airport, Ferry port, good roads and H1 trains are the answer to problems that we have. So many towns around Briton have great ideas to generate jobs and money, but cannot go ahead with them because they do not have the infrastructure to cope, we have every thing they need, but we refuse to do anything with it. It shamefull. As for the airport, when I was growing up in this area it was a military base, with suppersonic jets day and night. It wasn't a problem then and it will be much less than that. Come on Thanet if you want to get yourselves out of this poverty driven rut than we have to use the tools we have.

  3. Thank you for an interesting and balanced article and for quoting from the Brendon Sewill research which exposes the aviation industry's false claims around jobs. I do hope the people who have commented above will read it. It was certainly an eye-opener for me when I first read it.

    Regional airports and airlines are suffering everywhere. With increased oompetition, the budget airline model and with rising fuel costs the trend for staffing levels everywhere is downward. It is no longer the case that airports bring prosperity and increased job prospects. Prestwick, also owned by Infratil, has lost over 300 jobs and now runs the airport on 260 and that' with over 1.5 million passengers. I do urge people to look at the figures. As you say, the graph and information at the no night flights website is very illuminating http://bit.ly/

    Plus, Manston's claims for jobs are based on the airport's master plan and not night flights. Airport staff say that they can easily cope with night flights and no new jobs would be created. The master plan's fantasy claims (which, by the way, if it was based in reality would see over 1.5 million passengers using the airport currently instead of the actual 32,000)would rely on millions of people travelling past existing airports like Gatwick and Stansted in order to come to Manston. Manston has already been rejected by Ryanair and Easyjet mainly because it is surrounded on 3 sidees by water. They recognised that passengers can only come from one direction and would therefore have to go past other airports. It doesn't stack up.

    Plus, even if you could attract millions - airports are now only viable with 2 million or more passengers rather than 1 million which used to be the case. So, if Prestwick is struggling with 1.5 million which runs on 260 jobs - please work out how many millions you would need for 3,000 jobs. Of course, some ofthose are not at the airport - some are 'indirect' and what that can mean, and usually does, are jobs that are based either elsewhere in the country or even in another country. That doesn't really help East Kent, does it?

    Lastly, please consider the jobs lost in Ramsgate and surrounds if night flights go ahead. What chance of keeping, let alone attracting, hotel/guesthouse/restaurant businesses with planes going through the night?

    TDC need to thoroughly investigate the false economic argument being proposed by Infratil.

    In answer to Darren, yes, infrastructure is great - roads, ferries, rail. However, Britain's tourist deficit is appalling and in an area where we should be encouraging people to spend British pounds at home, we don't want to kill our leisure and tourism industry. No, instead use the infrastructure to bring people here to live, work and spend their money locally.

  4. Look at the numbers31 May 2011 at 13:59

    A quick look at the numbers will tell you that Infratil is bending the truth, to put it politely. Infratil says that night flights will mean 2.4m passengers and therefore 2,070 jobs at the airport alone. If you divide that 2.4m figure by 365, that means the airport needs to shift 6,575 passengers a night to create 2,070 jobs from night flights. Even if you take a generous estimate of 100 passengers per plane (and Infatil are telling us that the smaller planes are what the airport is targetting) that's almost 66 flights a night...for an airport that now has just 20 passenger flights a week (10 return flights), all of which are day flights.

    So, it's obvious that night flights alone won't create 2.4m passengers and 2,070 jobs, especially as the airport was asking for an average of 8 night flights a night last year. The airport will also need dozens of day flights to get close to that 2.4m number. It's been trying to do that for over 11 years and has failed. Why? It's in the wrong place and has too small a catchment area. That's why the Manchester flights failed this year. The budget carriers just aren't interested.

    Even if the 2.4m passenger idea were credible, which it isn't, 2.4m passengers do not deliver 2,070 jobs. There is no airport in the UK which employs that many people to support that many passengers. Infratil knows this - they own Prestwick.

    What we've got here is a last ditch attempt to dress up the airport for sale. Infratil can't develop a viable passenger business here and the company's shareholders are growing increasingly tetchy about the year-on-year losses. We're being sold a pup. We won't get jobs - airport workers have said they can handle a few night flights with existing staffing. So, we'll have a night freight airport, no new jobs, and a guaranteed disincentive for anyone to holiday or spend money in Ramsgate. That's a really poor economic decision.

  5. Anon 11:29 writes "wherever there is a flourishing regional airport there is increased prosperity and job prospects".

    No. Very no.

    I suggest you take a stroll around the shockingly deprived London Borough of Newham, home to the thriving London City Airport. A successful airport that has a complete ban on night flights, incidentally.

    Newham has not benefitted from the airport, or the steady increase in air traffic.

    Manston’s Chief Exec, Charles Buchanan, was at London City airport when it promised thousands of new jobs in return for permission to increase flights by 50% - after 10 years the airport delivered just 23% of the jobs promised, and less than 30% of the jobs created went to local people. Of the thousands of new jobs promised, less than 7% were actually delivered to local people.

  6. NNF - are you able to corroborate your claims about Charles Buchanan, London City airport and jobs? Is there a link verifying the figures you state?

    I'm aware that Airport Watch claimed Manston was reporting losses as of 2009, not sure if the financial situation has changed since then, but it's clear there is far more convincing that's needed to be done, judging by the comments by NNF and Look at the Numbers.

    Where there is doubt, there is clearly a need to address it.

  7. Call me cynical...31 May 2011 at 16:09

    Infratil's financial reports are available on their website. The New Zealand Herald comments on the £35 million loss of Infratil's European airports - that's Prestwich and Manston. Some think that th night flights application is just a ruse to try and trick someone into buying a dead duck so that Infratil can get out quick. Its shareholders aren't happy with the annual losses from Manston.

  8. I posted the first comment, applaud the second by Darren and rest my case in respect of the remainder. The usual Thanet abject negativity that will not even go down the road of a proper consultation in case it produces the wrong answer for them.

    Newman's poverty is more to do with overcrowding and a disproportionately high number of unskilled immigrants than any lack of input into the local economy by the airport. Move away from the actual jobs on the airfield itself and look at the cargo, airport bus and taxi services, the hire cars, fast food, accommodation and even security and investigation services that link into airports by outside firms.

    The idea that someone is going to buy a dead duck just because it can take the odd night flight is quite ludicrous, but anything that helps the anti-Manston campaign. It is like clutching at straws.

    Have the proper consultant and if that does not support the case for the airport expansion then so be it. Just don't kill it off on scaremongering.

  9. There has to be a second consultation for airport expansion before a consultation on night flights is appropriate. Airport expansion is contained in the Core Strategy documnent "Shaping our Future" which has not yet been approved and is unlikely to be approved before next year.

  10. Readit's comment simply highlights the night flight hysteria prevalent in Ramsgate. Of course we need a second or further consultant on the expansion, or otherwise, of the airport rather than one on night flights in isolation. That is what some of us are calling for and what is proposed by the TDC if only people would pay proper attention.

    The Conservative group have called for a full consultation followed by a free vote on the issue. It is Labour which is firmly no to anything it would seem, having campaigned on the night flight scaremongering in the recent election. This could lead to a divided isle politically which did nothing for Thanet before.

    A new report suggests that 13,700 jobs are to go in East Kent between Pfizer, Dungeness Power Station and public sector cuts. Surely, facing that prospect, we seriously need to look at all job creation and business expansion ideas a bit less hysterically and with a rather less selfish approach.

    It is all very well for Ramsgate's retired and not interested in working residents to oppose even mention of the airport, but think about those still trying to get jobs, pay their mortgages and raise families.

  11. 0850, as a far from retirement, hard working family man and resident of ramsgate, may I say the prospect of being awoken by an ageing freight crate between going to bed (at about 10pm) and getting up (around 5.30am) is not appealing.

    the jobs supposedly being created at the airport seems to be the only argument for the airport so should be rightly scrutinised.

    the jobs and inward migration being lost to the airport's shortcomings needs equal scrutiny.

    I've no problem with an airport operating successfully during current permitted hours - 7am to 11pm. Thats not selfish.

    Those that want the airport to save them a once/twice a year jaunt to Gatwick or Stansted - thats selfish.

    you would not support unwarranted night time disturbance in any other business/activity without reason. that is all that I want the airport to prove.

  12. 15:31 Surely those are the very issues that a full consultation needs to look into. My problem is with rejecting everything out of hand without even considering the possibilities.

  13. In 1998 London City Airport applied to increase flights to 73,000, promising an increase in jobs from 1,140 to 4,275 by 2005.

    In 2008 LCY applied to further increase the number of flights to 120,000.

    By then, the number of jobs had risen to 1,866 just 726 jobs more in ten years, or 23% of what they had promised, even though they were operating all the flights they had asked for.

    It is estimated that just 210 of these 726 jobs went to local Newham people.

    London City Airport: Fight the Flights Campaign - http://bit.ly/m9lKRq

  14. I think 18.53 you miss the point. The airport have asked for the ability to fly planes throughout the night with no limit attached. they have provided a report to back it up. the council have had an outside firm review that report and their findings are clear - residents under the flightpath will experience excessive to the point they recommend thousands of houses should have double glazing put on them.

    Why on earth should the council consult someone in Birchington on whether they think that night flights is a good idea or not?

  15. Bet Thanet could do with 1,866 jobs not to mention all the off shoot local businesses that result from an airport.

    NNF also ignores the point raised earlier about high levels of unskilled immigrants living in Newham. Just keep trundling out the same old negativity without giving anything the proper consideration our precarious East Kent work situation demands.

  16. Anon 08.50 is the one being hysterical, I was simply stating Planning Law as it applies to the decision process and sequence which TDC is duly bound to follow.

    For someone to be so fanatical about aiport expanaion,whilst ignoring relevant facts and counter arguments based on previous airport experience, I can only conclude that Anon 08.50 lives in Margate and has shares in Manston Airport. He is also probably a Margate Football supporter because I have seen similar arguements in favour of allowing all and any development at Hartsdown Park, completely contrary to proper planning procedure.

  17. 18.38 suffers from the same delusions as Manston airport operators. City Airports job numbers come from its success - around 3mm passengers a year.

    City Airports success comes from its location - 3 miles to the east of Canary Wharf, 5 miles from the City of London - the greatest financial centre in the world. The vast majority of flights are business people travelling to other financial centres in Europe and to the Eastern US.

    Manstons failure comes from its location - 75 miles to the east of london, surrounded by sea and one of the most deprived areas in the country (source, KCC, TDC, local mp's etc etc...). The handful of flights are either retired holidaymakers going on an organised tour, or fruit flown in taking business away from Kent producers.

    Thanet could do with 1,866 jobs, but the reality is since infratil took over manston, passenger numbers have gone from 207,000 to 32,000. In the same time City Airport has gone from 1,900,000 to 2,800,000.

    Oh, and City Airport has an outright ban not only on night flights, but certain sections of the weekend daytime as well.

    You can fantasise all you like about job creation, but the reality is plain and clear for all but the most stupid of people to see.

  18. The news today that the permanently unemployed, those who have never had a job in their lives, doubled during the last Labour government should come as no surprise. If Thanet Labour is anything to go by one can quite understand why. We must not even consider airport expansion, new railway stations, farming exports or China Gateway. Just bury heads in the sand and something will turn up.

    As for Ken Read, sorry but you are not just pointing out planning law. You are equally frenzied in your anti-airport stance and then have the cheek to accuse others of hysteria.

    No wonder your political career was so short lived.

  19. Perhaps Anon 10.57 should ask the question "Why have some people never had a job in their lifetime, it is not because of lack of jobs but more the lack of will to work.

    I am certainly not anti-airport just realistic about the airport's potential to attract customers and therefore its ability to create jobs.

    Wild exaggeration of job creation numbers will do no good the anybody in Thanet, better to work in the real world rather than cuckoo land.

  20. OK, but at least we need to consider our options rather than leaping to the pessimistic negative view every time. All I am saying is that we should have the consultation, you know, Ken, the one you suggested might be illegal!

    Long term unemployed becomes a self perpetuating mind set. Understand that, but it has always been in Labour's interests to promote that as it creates a captive, hand out dependent electorate. Thanet Labour are no different hence their negativity to any job creation.

    First to agree that jobs will probably not do anything for the never worked and never want to fraternity, but they might help to prevent another generation falling into the same pit.

    No, Ken, I am not into wild exaggeration either and I am sceptical about a report commissioned by the airport owners. What I am prepared to do, however, is examine the possibilities with an open mind. Something generally lacking in Thanet.

  21. Anon 08.43 I am open minded to ALL job creation in Thanet and I think the airport has a part to play alongside tourism revival, however I just do not believe the airport can deliver on the claims it is making. Nothing is stopping the airport expanding within existing agreements but it is struggling to increase present numbers

    You still seem not to grasp that a night flight consultation would be irrelevant until an agreement on airport expansion has been made.
    Night flights constitute airport expansion but the overall airport expansion plan has not been agreed.

  22. Ken, who is proposing a night flight consultation in isolation for certainly I am not. Also fail to see how an overall airport expansion plan can be agreed without further consultation.

    Afraid you are twisting comments to suit your own anti night flights stance whilst suggesting some sort of superiority of knowledge. I have no problems grasping the situation, but you seem to be under the impression that there is some scheme afoot to consider night flights in isolation of the overall plan.

    To state it simply, a consultation is needed on the overall airport expansion plan including the consideration of night flights within it.

    See in this week's IoTG, the knockers are already out with their opposition to the plans for Richborough power station. Don't you just love the Thanet nimby fraternity.

  23. Wow what a lot of anger I feel when reading these suggestions, if all anger was directed into one action we would get some where ith this matter. But it seems as though we are going round in circles whilst TDC offices are still holding back and not doing what they are paid to do.
    I shall admit some Councillors have caused some of the problems but, if you study every problem we have and have had in the past 25 years, none have ever been sorted.
    There are files at TDC that have been hidden away but are now coming to light, 106 agreements which TDC Officers have failed to check to see if everything is being done accordingly to the agreement.
    when I first came to live here 45 years ago, my solicitor checked to see if the airport at Manston had any agreement that night flights were to be given in the future. My solicitor obtained a copy of the agreement between TDC and Manston, there was no mention of ever being allowed to have movement of planes after 11pm or before 7am in their agreement.
    106 agreement did not include Planning permission for night flights. How come this has gone to this level? Why is it even happening? Is this another mess our legal department has made, by not wording the original documents in the correct manner, we had the same problem with the legal agreement of the lease for the Coach House.
    Who is left to suffer for their continual mismanagement and neglect, Us ,the tax payers every time.
    We need to remove all Officers and replace them with competent staff

  24. large scale night flights may not have been the perfect outcome for Thanet but i would have supported it as the airport has allways been there and could have expanded on the military or civilian side at anytime,so if you didnt take that into account when chooseing to live anywhere near an airport dont start moaning now.I welcome flights in and out of Manston but having been born in Thanet you soon realize that the anti everythink groups wont stop at night fights and the moaning will go on .Noted was comments about the effects of planes on tourism and id say tourism? have you taken a walk around parts of Margate,Cliftonville etc? as a local i feel ashamed that weve become a dumping ground for immigrants,landlords who dont know what a pot of paint is and must make the decent landlords want to weep and a soft attitude to spitting Yobs,litter bugs, and dog mess, im on a roll hear so lets move on to Richborough ,thats not in Poland,but it may as well be as Thanet Waste do love useing polish workers .but thier not the only ones so who can really blame them,