UK airports see traffic fall 2% in 2010 Q1; poor weather, APD increases and industrial action have all had an impact

Marketing Liverpool at the Shanghai 2010 World Expo

Marketing Liverpool at the Shanghai 2010 World Expo: It has not been a great start to the year for UK airports, although Liverpool John Lennon’s demand was up over 15% in both February and March. The airport’s owners, Peel Holdings, is a lead sponsor of the Liverpool exhibit at the Shanghai 2010 World Expo, which opens on 1 May, promoting Liverpool to the 70 million expected visitors over six months. The exhibit is managed by Liverpool Vision in partnership with the Northwest Regional Development Agency (NWDA), Liverpool City Council, and the Liverpool Shanghai Partnership. NWDA has committed £1.25m ($1.9m) to support Liverpool’s presence, while Liverpool City Council has committed £300,000 ($0.5m). The Peel team is seen here leaving for Shanghai (via VLM and Amsterdam), posing by the airport’s John Lennon statue: Left to right: Peel director Lindsey Ashworth, and Peel’s Naomi Peck and Ian Pollitt.

UK airports hoping that 2010 would come as a welcome relief after the difficulties of 2009 have so far had little to cheer about. Unusually cold (and snowy) weather resulted in operational problems across many airports in January and further industrial action by British Airways’ cabin crew in March had an impact on those (relatively few) UK airports where BA operates. The increase in APD (Air Passenger Duty) imposed by the government, which came into effect last November, has also been highlighted as a factor suppressing demand from UK airports.

Chart: London Airports - Pax change vly: January 2007 to March 2010

Source: UK CAA

London’s main airports performed reasonably well with four of the five airports reporting growth in February as both London City and Luton reported year-on-year growth for the first time since 2008. Only Stansted continues to suffer. It last reported monthly traffic growth two and a half years ago in October 2007. The airport may still be Europe’s busiest low-cost airport, but Ryanair’s cutbacks continue to take their toll despite the occasional new routes, such as Arrecife (Ryanair), Fuerteventura (easyJet), Gran Canaria (Ryanair), Istanbul SAW (Turkish Airlines), Oslo Rygge (Ryanair) and Sibiu (Blue Air), all of which launched this winter.

Chart: Scotland & N Ireland Airports - Pax change vly: January 2007 to March 2010

Source: UK CAA

Belfast City airport continues to be the star performer across Northern Ireland and Scotland. The collapse late last year of Scottish carrier Flyglobespan will be felt at Edinburgh and Glasgow for some while yet, although Ryanair’s new Edinburgh base saw the launch of new routes to Arrecife, Barcelona Girona, Brussels Charleroi, Gdansk, Gran Canaria, Memmingen (Munich West), Oslo Torp and Tenerife Sur. Glasgow Prestwick’s traffic is still down 20% in the first quarter of 2010 having seen passenger numbers fall 25% last year from 2.4 million in 2008 to 1.8 million in 2009.

Chart: Midlands & North UK Airports - Pax change vly: January 2007 to March 2010

Source: UK CAA

Airports in the Midlands have had a poor start to 2010 with the notable exception of Liverpool where demand was up over 15% in both February and March. East Midlands airport traffic is down over 20% in the first quarter, partly as a result of easyJet ending its operations there in January. The airline has moved its Midlands operations to Doncaster/Sheffield (from April) where traffic was down over 25% during the first quarter. Leeds/Bradford finally reported growth in March for the first time since October 2008, while Newcastle’s February traffic was up (just 0.6%) for the first time since October 2007.

Chart: South & South-West UK Airports - Pax change vly: January 2007 to March 2010

Source: UK CAA

Bristol and Southampton both reported growth in February and March. For Bristol, this was the first time since October 2008, while for Southampton the wait had been even longer; June 2008 to be precise. Traffic at Cardiff Airport in Wales has been down by more than 10% every month since September 2008.


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