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2012 ends with mixed fortunes for Airport passenger numbers 4 March 2013

After a year of mixed fortunes for the Island's Airport and air service network, passenger numbers through Isle of Man Airport in 2012 reduced slightly over the 2011 level. The Airport handled 705,993 passengers over the year, about 5,000 passengers lower than 2011 - a drop of 0.68%. December traffic was up – by just 0.5% – with just under 59,000 passing through the terminal, ending 2012 on a slightly positive note.

The faltering UK and European economies have again taken their toll on what was anticipated to be a slight improvement to passenger figures for 2012. Of the 21 routes operated during the year, two thirds saw decreases in passengers with some having a significant impact on the year end figure. The Southampton route, which was withdrawn last February, contributed the biggest decrease of over 12,500 passengers, whilst the short suspension of the London City route during April and May, before British Airways recommenced it, added nearly 8,000 passengers to the deficit. The Flybe Luton route has sharply declined by 25% and added a further reduction of over 6,500 passengers in 2012, whilst their Birmingham route saw a 5.6% decline with 2,500 fewer passengers.

Meanwhile there have been notable improvements to key routes from the Island. The Flybe Gatwick service picked up some of the London City traffic in April and May and, with the addition of easyJet, the route overall has also ended the year with a flourish, increasing passenger numbers by 16,100 or 12.7%. Liverpool, also operated by Flybe and easyJet, increased by 8,000 passengers – nearly 5% - and the new Citywing Oxford route and Loganair’s summer service to Norwich added 5,500 passengers between them.

Ann Reynolds, Airport Director, admitted that 2012 had been a challenge for the Airport and its operators. “The double-dip recession has hit the aviation industry in the UK and Europe very hard in 2012 as it has knocked the confidence out of the already depressed leisure and business air travel markets. People were expecting to have some money in their pockets to take the trips they have been putting off for the last couple of years, and it just hasn’t been possible for most people,” she said. “The result was a promising start to 2012 but declining from April. The last two or three months have shown more promise, but primarily in the major markets of London and the North West. Other regional routes continue to have a tough time, and there is little sign of an underlying improvement yet.”

This is underlined by the recent news of the withdrawal of the Jersey service by Blue Islands and the decision by Citywing (previously to suspend its Oxford and Leeds services from early January. Flybe has also decided to suspend, until March, its Luton service.

During December, the North West and South East regions continued to set the pace with the NW up by over 1,100 passengers fuelled by an increase in frequency by easyJet on the Liverpool route giving them a rise in passengers of almost 50%. The SE and London routes rose by over 3000 passengers, following the introduction of the easyJet Gatwick service in October, and Flybe maintaining a solid 9,000 passengers on the route. This has resulted in an increase of over 30% on Gatwick over the last quarter and London traffic overall rising by 20% with over 10,000 additional passengers using London air services to and from the Island over the three month period.

Departmental Member for Ports, David Callister, MLC shared the disappointment of the slight overall decline in annual traffic and particularly of the suspension of some routes. “The suspension of services is particularly disappointing as the airlines have worked hard throughout this time of economic downturn to try to maintain them as year round operations,” he said. “We are conscious of the delicate economics of some our more fragile routes, and will be looking at ways to make the operation of the Isle of Man Airport more cost effective in the future. It is important that we ensure that the long term strategic development of the Island’s air service network is maintained to support our economy and those who are residents on the Island and we should ensure easy accessibility to airlines who, in the future, wish to work with us to develop the network.”

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