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Airport Awaits Return of Luton Route as Passenger Numbers Fall 14 September 2007

The restart of the popular Luton route is eagerly awaited at the Isle of Man Airport as passenger numbers during the traditionally busy month of August period fell by over 5,000. In August 2006, the Luton service generated no less than 6,700 passengers and the withdrawal of the route in early 2007 has left the Airport struggling to achieve last year’s passenger numbers.

Some of the passengers have elected to fly to and from other London airports, but air travellers between the key South East market and the Island fell by 4,360. The North London destination has, in the past, proven extremely popular as a convenient and inexpensive gateway to and from the South East, with Isle of Man residents and visitors alike taking advantage of the lower priced air travel between the Island and Luton. The good news is that by the end of next month, the link will return, with Flybe offering four flights weekly over the winter period, and with plans to increase this to daily from spring 2008.

Nevertheless, the 7% decrease is a matter of concern for Airport Director, Ann Reynolds.

“We knew that the loss of Luton would create a substantial hole in our passenger numbers as the service generated over 56,000 passengers last year,” she said. “However, we had hoped that more of the summer visitors, in particular, would have transferred to other London routes during the holiday period. It just shows how vital it is for the Island to have a link with a major North London airport, and we are both relieved and delighted that Flybe will be reintroducing the Luton route next month.”

Also of concern has been the shortfall of passengers flying between the Isle of Man and the traditional North West regional airports of Liverpool and Manchester. Both saw decreases in August, but the Manx2 Blackpool route continues to show good growth. Despite EuroManx experiencing a remarkable 41% increase in traffic on its Manchester service, in total the North West routes were around 2,700 passengers down on August 2006.

“The flattening of the North West market is actually of greater concern to us than the shortfall of passengers to and from London,” said Ann Reynolds. “We are having discussions with our airlines about ways in which we can stimulate this important market and we will be working together to try to reverse the current trend. We believe that the poor summer weather in the British Isles in general has driven people to taking overseas holidays this year, and we hope that the early autumn sunshine will now attract some late holidaymakers to the Island.”

On a positive note, the regional destinations continue to show promise. The Southampton route, in particular, saw a massive 177% increase in traffic with nearly 2,700 people using the Flybe service. Moreover, the new route to Gloucester M5 Airport, launched by Manx2 on 3 September, generated a massive 1,200 bookings, even before the first flight became airborne.

“The advance sales of the Gloucester route, demonstrates the popularity of the smaller regional routes – a trend which is extremely encouraging,” commented Ann. “Whilst it is essential to support and grow the major routes, we will continue to seek to develop new links to give both residents and visitors the widest choice of destinations possible from the Island.”

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