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Disappointing passenger figures as winter cutbacks bite 10 March 2011

After a solid start to 2011 with January showing a 3.6% increase in passengers, the February results for the Isle of Man Airport have virtually wiped out the positive growth with a 3.6% decrease for the month. 49,126 passengers flew into and out of the Airport, compared with 50,955 in February 2010 - a reduction of 1,829. Whilst recent decreases could be attributed to weather disruption, the February reduction essentially reflects a cautious approach by airlines to restoring capacity on some routes during the winter months. Traditionally January and February is the leanest season for air travel and airlines reduce the number of flights to meet reduced demand. Early 2011 has proven particularly quiet and this has reflected in the February results.

Ann Reynolds, Airport Director, admitted that, whilst the reduction in passengers was understandable, the February results were nevertheless disappointing. "With the difficulties experienced last year hopefully behind us, we had expected a small growth in passenger traffic. It seems that demand is taking longer than we expected to regenerate and airlines operating some of our primary routes are still struggling to fill aircraft during this, the quietest time of the year" she said. "February 2010 was also relatively strong with a 1.8% increase over 2009, but the decreases last month experienced on some of our key routes – Manchester, London City, Birmingham and Dublin – were more than we had forecast."

Traffic to Manchester reduced by 16.5% and to Birmingham by 12.5%. The London City route had an aircraft with significantly reduced capacity operating the route last month and hence a reduction in passengers of over 1,400. On the positive side Liverpool traffic increased by almost 2,600 passengers with Flybe and easyJet carrying between them over 11,600 passengers. Routes operated by also showed encouraging performance, despite a reduction of capacity to meet lower demand, achieving between 60% and 70% occupancy on four out of five routes. The Scottish routes operated for Flybe by Loganair also produced improved results overall with Edinburgh increasing by 18%, and Glasgow, despite a fall in traffic, selling almost two thirds of the seats on the route over the month.

"It is clearly taking more time for the Airport to return to consistent growth," added Ann. “The spring and early summer period will be a key time for us and will shape the likely outcome for 2011. All the indications still give us cause for optimism, as early bookings for this busier period remain relatively strong, but it may take a little longer to achieve consistent month-on-month growth.”

Minister of Infrastructure, Phil Gawne, MHK, reflected that the Island’s route network had remained robust throughout a lengthy period of sustained difficulties and this was of fundamental importance to the Island. "Our objective has been to try to retain the integrity of our route network as far as possible to provide the foundation for growth in better times," he said. "We have only seen one route dropped and another, Belfast International, consolidated at Belfast City, so our airline partners have resolutely stuck with us during times that have been economically very tough. We are extremely grateful for their loyalty to the Isle of Man over a long and difficult period, and very much hope that their confidence in the Island’s air travel market will be rewarded with a buoyant and successful 2011 summer season."

Please click below to access the Monthly Air Traffic Summary for February 2011

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