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Welcome boost to Island’s air passenger numbers 11 December 2012

After seven months where Isle of Man Airport passenger traffic has struggled in the face of tough economic conditions in the UK and Europe with declining figures, the November figures provided a welcome reversal of the recent trend. Traffic through the Airport increased by 3,900 passengers, a 7% rise over November 2011. Over 59,500 passengers passed through the Ronaldsway terminal, the highest November figure for five years.

Again it was the routes to the Island’s biggest air travel markets - the North West and London - that defined the overall trend. All three North West routes from the Island saw increases, with Liverpool leading the surge with a 15% rise. This was fuelled by additional frequency and capacity introduced by easyJet, boosting their departures to 11 A319 Airbus flights weekly, this being in addition to the 24 flights weekly flown by Flybe. London traffic increased by over 20%, again driven by the 3,800 passengers using the new easyJet 4 weekly service to Gatwick, supplementing the 26 weekly operated by Flybe, and this also came with a 15.7% increase in London City passengers generated by the BA CityFlyer triple-daily service.

Ann Reynolds, Airport Director, was reassured by the reversal in passenger numbers, but was under no illusions about whether the solid November increase had signified improved market conditions. “The last seven months has been tough for our airlines and this coming winter will be even more difficult for the industry,” she said. “What we are currently seeing is that the primary markets are responding positively to very competitive fares brought about by competition between carriers. It can be seen that, when stimulated, and despite tough economic times, the air travel market to and from the Island can respond with new traffic being generated.”

“However, the other side of the coin is that the small regional routes are increasingly suffering with declining passenger numbers,” she added. “Indeed, the recent decision to suspend a number of routes in January, for the winter period, together with the withdrawal of the Jersey service, underlines the hard times our airlines are having.”

Leeds, Luton and Jersey routes all experienced declines during November with Leeds and Luton 25% and 30% down respectively. Oxford was 40% below the forecast level. Jersey was only slightly below November 2011, but has seen a constant decline since 2008. Birmingham also fell by 13% and Belfast by 10%.

On a positive note, both of the Loganair Scottish routes have demonstrated improvements in traffic levels recently with Glasgow leading the way with a 19% increase. Manx2.com’s Gloucester service was up by 11% whilst their Blackpool route saw a small increase, and at the same time Flybe recorded a similar percentage rise in their Manchester passengers and similarly Aer Lingus with Dublin.

With just one month to go, despite the reversal in November, it is expected that 2012 will result in a small overall decline in passengers for the Airport. Provisional forecasts for 2013 indicate a slow but steady return to growth, but the outturn for next year will be again dependent upon the UK and European economies showing signs of improvement.

This is a point that Departmental Member for Ports, David Callister, again stressed. “The current economic climate, together with the pressures placed upon airlines from Airport Passenger Duty taxation, makes it an incredibly tough call for our airlines to maintain and grow routes to and from the Island” he said. “This is especially the case for the smaller, or “thinner” routes, which are so important to us, our economy and the ability for residents to access points throughout the UK and visitors to choose to come to the Island. We are desperately disappointed to see the suspension and withdrawal of some of these routes, but we will be working with our airlines over the coming months to try to provide the necessary encouragement for suspended routes to be resumed next summer, whilst maintaining the well proven strategy to generate new routes when the economic climate improves.”

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