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Year ends with optimism for Isle of Man Airport 16 January 2008

The December air passenger figures for the Isle of Man Airport showed an increase for the second month running bringing a positive end to a year which saw an overall decrease of 3.1%. Over 1,000 more passengers used the Airport in December 2007 than a year earlier with 63,000 passengers passing through the terminal. Over 764,000 air passengers flew into and out of the Isle of Man during 2007, about 25,000 less than in 2006.

In fact, this shortfall is remarkably moderate, given that the Luton route, reintroduced in October after being withdrawn for much of 2007, accounted for a loss by the Airport of 51,500 passengers. Another major decrease in 2007 was on routes to North West England, with Liverpool falling by almost 27,000 passengers and Manchester down by 15,500, but Blackpool increasing by 6,400. Many other routes experienced excellent growth with Gatwick up by 26,400 passengers or 22%, Southampton up by 121%, Blackpool by 43%, and the Belfast routes increasing by 24%. The Leeds route achieved its highest level since 1997.

Despite the overall reduction for 2007, the December improvement of almost 2% over December 2006 is indicative of a reversal the downward trend of air passengers experienced by the Island since 2005. As Ann Reynolds, the Airport’s Director confirmed, there is now room for cautious optimism for steady growth during 2008.

“The December traffic figures are reassuring,” said Ann. “2007 has been a year of substantial change with Flybe taking over the BA Connect routes from the Island and establishing a base at the Airport. It has been a tough year for many of our airlines as competition in the UK has become increasingly intense. I believe that it will take a few more months to re-establish consistent growth, especially as some of our routes have had to be cut back during a particularly lean winter, but the indications for the future are good.”

Reflecting Ann’s optimism has been the recent announcement of yet another new route to be launched from the Airport. Manx2 will add a daily flight to East Midlands Airport from 3rd March bringing the number of direct services operated by the airline from the Island to six. The new East Midlands route follows the launch of Manx2’s route to Gloucester and Flybe’s Luton service in late 2007, with the Geneva ski flights taking off in February. Added to this, a weekly link with Newquay is scheduled to be launched this summer by Flybe, together with flights to the Mediterranean.

“The news of the new link with East Midlands has capped a period of announcements of new routes and route expansions,” said Ann. “This summer will see big expansions of our routes to Birmingham, Luton and Liverpool with Flybe. The recently launched Luton route will become twice daily as will Flybe’s service to Birmingham. Both EuroManx and Flybe experienced solid growth on their Manchester routes in December and we are hopeful that Liverpool will see much the same result in 2008 with more flights being offered.”

At a time when the UK air travel industry is experiencing a flattening of demand in line with a slowing down of the economy and higher oil prices, Ann believes that the route developments to be introduced from the Island shows confidence by the airlines in the Isle of Man leisure and business markets. “Whilst we have a few selected cut-backs in some routes during a tough winter, it is very promising to see a summer programmes of flights emerging which offers both new and expanded routes,” added Ann. “We will have 21 scheduled service destinations from the Island this summer – more than ever – and our major markets in London, the Midlands and the North West will all see substantial increases in the number of flights. This has got to be excellent news for the Island, its residents and, of course, the tourism industry”

(Please see Monthly Air Traffic Summery for December 2007 on page 3 and the 2007 Annual Summary on page 4)

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