Lydd and Manston Airports Report Losses

19.4.2009   (Lydd Airport Action Group press release)

The latest report and accounts filed at Companies House reveal that London Ashford
Airport (Lydd Airport) owned by Sheikh Fahad al Athel, employs 54 people and is losing £1.9m per annum.  

The larger Kent International Airport (Manston Airport), owned by Infratil Ltd a publicly
quoted company in New Zealand, employs 92 people and is losing £4m per annum

Both airports have failed to attract sufficient commercial passenger business,
although Manston managed to handle 32,624 tons of freight. CAA statistics for
calendar 2008 reveal that Lydd Airport handled 1,673 passengers and Manston 11,657
passengers implying that both airports were operating at less than 1% of their potential capacity based on their existing runways.   In spite of offering unlimited slot capacity
both airports have failed to attract sufficient commercial airline operators.

A leading aviation consultant Malcolm Spaven of Spaven Consulting has carried out an analysis of the operational aspects of both airports and
concluded that even if Lydd Airport’s current planning application for the extension
of the runway and new terminal were successful, Manston Airport would remain operationally
superior to Lydd Airport.

Manston Airport has a longer runway, the ability to support both short and long
haul traffic which makes it attractive to freight operators as well commercial
passenger airlines, unrestricted airspace, better instrument landing systems,
better road and rail infrastructure and is a subsidiary of a group that owns two
other airports in Europe which should enable it to offer better marketing packages.  
Hence, Lydd Airport will be unlikely to attract commercial passenger airlines
without route development subsidies and will be uncompetitive in the freight market
which is dominated by long haul traffic.    

In LAAG’s opinion there is no case for a second regional airport in Kent.   Increased airport capacity in Kent as a result of Lydd Airport’s expansion
will not lead to additional demand.   In the short haul market Lydd Airport would
compete directly for the first time with Manston Airport as a result of its ability
to handle B737s and A319s, the work horses of the low cost operators, and this
will put pressure on landing fees, further undermining the viability of Manston
Airport and making it unlikely that Lydd Airport will recover its investment.

LAAG believes there should only be one regional airport in Kent and since Manston
Airport has clear operational advantages over Lydd Airport it should fulfil this
role.   With its long runway of 2752m, (Lydd Airport – 1949m after expansion) it
can handle both short and long haul traffic and unlike Lydd Airport, Manston Airport
is unencumbered by the close proximity of nuclear power stations, military ranges
and protected environmental sites.

LAAG believes Shepway District Council should reject Lydd Airport’s planning
application as there is already spare runway capacity in Kent – profit and employment
optimisation in the region will be associated with promoting one regional airport
in Kent.


Louise Barton

Lydd Airport Action Group 



Notes to Editors:


(1).  Lydd and Manston Airport’s Potential Capacity:     In the preparation of
the Aviation White Paper the government examined the capacity of established airports
including the smaller airports (See Page 109 of the Second Edition February 2003:
The Future Development of Air Transport in the United Kingdom: South East – A
National Consultation).   This analysis shows airports’ potential passenger capacity
in 2030, assuming that maximum use is made of existing runways in the major South
East Airports and that no new runway capacity is provided in the region. Lydd
Airport’s potential was estimated to be 125,000ppa in 2030 from its existing runway – an estimate which takes into account local constraints as well as runway capacity.  
Lydd Airport claims in its planning application that its current terminal and
runway capacity is 300,000ppa.   Manston Airport in the pre White Paper assessment by the government was estimated
to have a passenger throughput of 3million passengers per annum by 2030 but this was later raised to 4-6mppa.     For Lydd and Manston Airports respectively
we have used 300,000ppa and 6mppa.

 (2) Lydd Airport submitted a planning application in December 2006 (Y06/1647/SH
& Y06/1648/SH) for a 444m extension to its runway and a new terminal to increase
its passenger numbers from <2000 per annum in 2008 to 500,000 passengers per
annum (ppa). This planning application represents Phase1 of the airport’s Master
Plan objective to increase passenger numbers to 2million passengers per annum
(2mppa). Lydd Aiport has completed and submitted three rounds of supplementary
environmental information since December 2006 as the information provided in the
original planning application was inadequate and incomplete. The date of the planning
application’s determination has yet to be notified.

(3) Lydd Airport is located less than three miles from the Dungeness Nuclear
Power Complex with a height restriction of 2000ft and less than two miles from
the Lydd Military Ranges (D044) with a height restriction of 4000 ft and eight
miles from the Hythe Military Ranges, (D141) with a height restriction of 3200

(4) LAAG is an action group formed in late August 2004 to oppose the large scale
development of Lydd Airport.   LAAG has 2850 active members.