Wednesday, 25 January 2012

FLYBE IN THE OINTMENT

The issue of night flights at Manston Airport has been rearing its ugly head again. Despite the fact that FlyBe announced that they'll stop using the airport for passenger flights by March 2012, Manston Airport owner Charles Buchanan has told This Is Kent that the decision "reinforces the need for the airport's proposals for limited and managed scheduled night-time flights" and David Foley from Thanet and East Kent Chamber of Commerce also banged the war drum by singing from the same hymn sheet on BBC News.

But hey, wait a minute, didn't Manston Airport's Master Plan explicitly state that the success of passenger flights would be a precursor to any 'additional services' it might offer? Here's a quote:

"We anticipate that initial growth at our airport will come in steps. Initially, passenger flights will be offered by aircraft based at other airports and operating single daily return flights to various destinations from our airport. As the market grows, additional services will be offered and aircraft operators will look to base aircraft and crews at our airport. Our airport is not the first to predict growth based on this model and many regional UK and mainland Europe low cost airports have developed in this way." (Manston Master Plan, p50)

Since the success of passenger flights formed such an important part of Manston Airport's Master Plan, the fact that FlyBe will no longer be running passenger flights due to low demand makes it more problematic for Manston Airport to argue the case for night flights. After all, the Master Plan clearly states that additional services will be offered as the market for passenger flights grows and since the market is clearly not growing then I'd say this doesn't reinforce the need for night flights at all. If anything, they should say it reinforces the need for day flights!

A big reason behind Manston Airport's existence is, of course, freight. This is why I assume night flights are still being pushed for, even though doing so in the absence of any passenger flights somewhat contradicts their Master Plan. If you remember it, according to an overview of how Thanet Council hopes the District will look by the year 2030, it was hoped that Manston would be "the commercial centre of Thanet" and that Kent International Airport will have "established itself as a major cargo base for the UK, processing 500,000 tons of freight per year, particularly from nearby continental markets."

Since freight is clearly the name of the game, I found it odd to discover that Cardiff Airport has been at the heart of similar plans, with an IFW news article stating that it could become "an air-freight hub for Tesco, flying in perishable goods from Spain and Holland for delivery to supermarkets across northern Britain." Hmm, Tesco, eh? Since Margate residents near Arlington House are trying to resist plans to build a Tesco superstore, this should ring alarm bells – could this be the ulterior motive behind Manston Airport's persistent push for night flights? It seems more than a coincidence to me.

1 comment:

  1. Luke, it appears that its not what has been said about airport expansion that matters but what hasn't been said
    See http://in2thanet.blogspot.com/2012/01/ldcs.html

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