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Sharp Decrease in Passengers - But Ahead Of Expectation 16 December 2008

The Isle of Man Airport suffered a sharp drop in passengers in November as the global economic crisis continued to hit air travel to and from the Island. However, the 12% decrease last month was not as severe as the Airport management team had feared.

Ann Reynolds, the Isle of Man Airport Director, whilst disappointed at the 8,000 passenger decrease (57,000 down from 65,000), received the news with some relief. “With the combination of the struggling UK economy, a tough winter and the repercussions of the EuroManx collapse in May, we knew that November would be a poor month compared with last year,” she said. “We expected November passengers to be down to just 53,000, a huge 18% decrease, but the performance of many of the routes was significantly better than anticipated.”

The Flybe Gatwick service, in particular, performed very well with over 2,200 more passengers using the route than in November 2007, an increase of over 20%. Luton also increased by over 900 passengers, a 57% increase, but the 4,500 passenger decrease on the London City route more than overshadowed the boosts to Gatwick and Luton. As a result, traffic to London was almost 1,400 passengers down. “These results underline the need to restore the London City frequency,” added Ann. “We are therefore delighted that Aer Arann will be starting their 3 times daily service from 19 January 2009. I believe that this will make a substantial difference to our overall London traffic as the convenience of London City Airport will, in itself, generate many additional business and leisure trips.”

The primary services to the North West also saw decreases. Manchester was down by almost 1,800 passengers and Liverpool by 1,600. The Manx2 service to Blackpool, however, increased by 350. Again, a much greater fall in traffic had been predicted and the 24,700 passengers that flew to the three North West Airports was over 3,000 better than expected. Routes to the South and South West England also experienced a fall, primarily because of the withdrawal of the Bristol route in January 2008 and the decision by Flybe to suspend the Southampton route over the winter period. The route to Gloucester, however, showed an 11% improvement and this is set to continue with the recent announcement of a further increase in frequency of the route.

The Director also explained why a greater reduction in traffic had been expected. “Apart from the tough economic climate, the reason that we knew that November - and much of the forthcoming winter period - would produce significant reductions over 2007, was that the fierce competition between Flybe and EuroManx last year resulted in unsustainably low fares attracting higher volumes of passengers,” she said. “Flybe are still able to offer competitive fares on their Liverpool and Manchester routes, but we are comfortable now that the capacity and fares that they are offering are economically viable and sustainable.”

Minister of Transport, David Anderson, MHK, emphasized that the downturn currently experienced with Isle of Man air travel is typical of what is happening throughout the aviation industry. “We are hearing news every day of airlines that are struggling and some that are not surviving,” he said. “However, the airlines operating from the Isle of Man, and the routes they operate, are strong and the load factors being achieved are generally very satisfactory. We know that this will be a difficult period for our operators and we will continue to give them every possible support to help them to continue to provide and develop what is a very comprehensive air service network for the Island.”

(Please see Monthly Air Traffic Summary)

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