Plymouth City Airport to close in December
Plymouth City Airport is to close in December, its owner has announced.
Sutton Harbour Group blamed the economic downturn and “challenges for the UK
regional aviation market”.
It said the airport, which employs 56 people, had suffered “significant losses
in recent years” and was facing a £1m loss over the next year.
Air SouthWest axed its service to London Gatwick in February, meaning fewer than
100 people were flying out of Plymouth every day.
Sutton Harbour Group, which owns the airport leasehold, said it had worked with
freeholders Plymouth City Council, but “no viable solution has been found”.
Nigel Godefroy, chief executive of the Sutton Harbour Group, said: “Plymouth
City Airport, like many regional airports in the current environment, is unviable
as a commercial enterprise.
“This has been an incredibly difficult decision given the efforts by so many,
including our own staff, to give the airport a future.
“We have always fought for Plymouth’s air links and sought to do our best for
the city and its people, our employees and shareholders, but the usage of the
airport simply does not support the high cost of operation.”
Staff have been told it is too early for an exact timetable on redundancies,
but the company said it would keep them informed as the process evolved and would
support them in every way it reasonably could.
Staff at the airport, who were told about the closure at a meeting on Thursday
morning, said they were “gutted”.
A fireman based at the airport, who did not want to be named, said it had been
a “total shocker” and the closure would make Plymouth much less attractive for
The Sutton Harbour Group took over operation of the airport in 2000 and went
on to launch Air Southwest in 2003.
New destinations were added including London City Airport, Leeds, Manchester,
Newcastle, Glasgow, Cork and Grenoble.
But Air Southwest was sold to Eastern International Airways in November 2010
and loss-making routes, including London Gatwick, were axed.
Tim Jones, chairman of Devon and Cornwall Business Council, said rival airports
at Newquay in Cornwall and Exeter would benefit from the closure, but Plymouth
needed an airport too.
“It’s an international city, it has international ambitions with international
businesses. Plymouth needs an airport for its future.”
He said a new era of shorter take-off and landing planes and helicopters could
make the airport viable.
“We need to find a way to preserve the asset because once it’s gone there’s no
going back,” he said.
Eastern Airways, which also flies out of Newquay, said closing the airport was
“disappointing for Air Southwest and for Plymouth” but it provided “much-needed
clarity after a difficult and protracted period of uncertainty”.
The airport has been loss making for a very long time and Sutton Harbour has
been wringing its hands over this for months.
What’s certain to happen now is that there will be a row over whether Sutton
Harbour has really done enough to establish that the airport is unviable.
The council and the business community will fight desperately to see whether
there’s any way it can be preserved as an airfield rather than be developed for
another use such as housing.
Plymouth is a city that risks losing not only its airport, but its football team.
These things are very important totems.
Comments from AirportWatch members:
Plymouth handled 96,000 passengers last year. Is this a sign of the times?
It seems the UK has a surfeit of airports in a declining market. Will we see
more airport closures? Should there be a section in the DfT scoping document
headed ‘Further end-uses for Redundant Airports’? Robert Sinclair, Chief Exec,
Bristol Airport will be rubbing his hands with glee. Cardiff reduced passenger
numbers, the closure of Filton Airport and now Plymouth. I can’t see passengers
going to Newquay or Exeter but Bristol.
I note that it’s a leasehold so other aviation uses could be found –
Recent air passenger figures for Plymouth:
There were 4,204 passengers in March 2011 which was -52.5% down on March 2010.
In the year ending March 2011 there were 85,533 passengers, which is -27.9% down
than the same period a year earlier.
2010 96 -16% down on 2009