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Legacy of Volcano dashes hope of recover 21 June 2010

The legacy of Iceland’s Eyjafjallajokul Volcano continued to devastate passenger traffic numbers for Isle of Man Airport during May resulting in another month with a double-figure downturn. The decrease – again across the board for airlines and routes – was 14.7%, the second month in a row that traffic has plummeted at the Airport. This was during a month when the volcanic activity in Iceland reduced significantly with only a short period of disruption that actually stopped flights from arriving and departing from the Isle of Man. Ann Reynolds, Airport Director explained why there had nevertheless been a substantial decrease in passenger traffic.

‘Although there was a marked reduction in ash cloud disruption during May, people were reluctant to book their flights due to the uncertainty caused by the volcano.’ she said. ‘I am pleased to reassure everyone that all the indications are that the volcano activity has eased to the point where there is little or no eruption. We are therefore very hopeful that the crisis is over and confidence in booking flights is now returning.’

The fall in passenger numbers due to the ash cloud turned an expected 7.5% increase in traffic to a decrease of double that level. As the attached graph shows, there had been a steady underlying recovery since spring 2009 which came to an abrupt reversal, first with snow, and then with ash.

Nearly 3,800 of the 9,260 fall in passenger numbers came from the North West of England routes, with London airports seeing a drop of almost 2,000. All other regions also saw decreases except traffic from the South West which was boosted by the combined performance of the Flybe route to Bristol and Manx2.com’s Gloucester service. The North East saw a marginal decrease, but the Newcastle route showed a 32% increase. The route to Liverpool carried about as many passengers as May 2009 helped by the start of the easyJet flights, complementing Flybe’s established service on the route. The East Midlands saw a 35% reduction in passengers in May underlining the regrettable decision that Manx2.com has had to make to close the route.

‘We are sad to see the withdrawal of the route to East Midlands Airport from the beginning of July, but fully understand the economic reasons behind Manx2.com’s decision,’ said Ann. ‘It has proven to be a very seasonal route and after a tough winter, we were all hopeful for the usual recovery in passenger numbers. With the ash problem causing such uncertainty, this simply didn’t happen this year.’

Indications are that confidence is returning and bookings are beginning to recover, albeit slowly. June has seen the usual boost in traffic generated by the TT, together with the launch of the Freedom Travel Holidays Mediterranean flights to Menorca and, later in the season, Majorca. This is an exciting time for the Airport and the Isle of Man, as it is the first summer series of Mediterranean holiday flights ever operated from the Isle of Man. Not surprisingly, bookings have been very good as the opportunity to fly direct to the Mediterranean sun from the Isle of Man without having to transfer over a UK Airport has proven extremely popular.

Minister for Infrastructure, Phil Gawne MHK was cautiously optimistic about the recovery in passenger traffic for the summer, although he emphasised that airlines throughout Europe, including those flying from the Isle of Man, were still experiencing slow booking levels. ‘It is vitally important that confidence returns quickly to the reliability of air travel following the ash disruption. The summer period is a key one for the Isle of Man and for our airlines as it is during this period that we are all able to generate the revenue to keep us going through the leaner winter period. I am hopeful that the sustained recovery that we had previously predicted will now come about.’

Please click below to access the Monthly Air Traffic Summary for May 2010

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