Britain’s cheap travel boom left it with too many non-viable regional airports, says Birmingham’s Kehoe

Paul Kehoe, keen to boost the fortunes of Birmingham airport, has said that Britain has twice as many airports as it needs. He said that  airports such as Norwich, Blackpool, Doncaster and Durham Tees Valley will struggle to justify their existence. There are too many small airports competing for the same passengers, and since the travel boom caused by artificially cheap air travel – which pays no fuel duty and no VAT – the demand is no longer great enough to justify so many airports. Airports always claim that they boost the local economy, though that can be disputed.  They certainly suck Brits out of the country on cheap foreign trips, to spend their money abroad. Paul Kehoe said there are 20 airports between Leeds and Southampton providing commercial flights, and passenger numbers are still far below their 2007 peak. Talking about the purchase by the Welsh government, at a high price, of Cardiff airport, Paul Kehoe said we “have a choice about whether we should go on holiday. Why should the taxpayer subsidise it?”  Too true.


Boom left Britain with pointless regional airports, says flight chief

1.4.2013 (The Times) £££

by Andrew Clark,  Deputy Business Editor

Pauk Kehoe says the UK has twice as many airports as it needs due to the “legacy of a short-lived boom in budget travel,”.

Many regional terminals are suffering a hangover after aggressively expanding in response to a low-cost travel boom before the 2008 financial crisis.

At the peak of the boom, Doncaster’s Robin Hood airport handled a million passengers a year, but its traffic has since dropped by a third. Blackpool’s usage has fallen 42% to 235,000 people since 2007, Norwich has halved since its peak and Durham Tees Valley’s traffic has collapsed from 912,000 to 165,000 in 6 years.

See full Times article 





Doubt over value of regional airports

 2 April 2013 (Yorkshire Post)

Robin Hood Airport faces an uphill battle to justify its existence, according to comments reportedly made by the chief executive of Birmingham’s international aviation hub.

Paul Kehoe suggests the Doncaster airport is one of a number of regionalairports that have left Britain with twice as many as it needs following a short-lived boom in budget travel.

According to reports, Mr Kehoe said: “Clearly, every community wants connectivity. Who am I to say you shouldn’t have an airport?

“But as a country, we need very effective airports and scale does matter. To be blunt, you’ve got to look long and hard at the likes of Blackpool, Doncaster, Durham and Norwich.”

He said that there were 20 airports operating commercial flights between Leeds and Southampton, while flight passengers passing through UK airports had fallen by 19 million since 2007.

His comments follow a deal agreed last week by the Welsh Assembly to pay £52m to nationalise Cardiff’s struggling airport. Mr Kehoe suggested it was unreasonable for the taxpayers to be left picking up the tab.

Traffic at Robin Hood Airport peaked at more than one milion in 2007 but that figure dropped to 693,000 last year, with flights available to more than 30 destinations.

Over £100m has been invested in the airport since it opened in April 2005, including a new terminal building.

A draft master plan, which was the subject of public consultation four years ago, outlines a vision to grow the airport to enable it to handle more than 10m annual passengers by 2030.

Elsewhere, two regional airports have suffered closure with commercial operations ceasing at Plymouth City airport in 2011 and Britsol’s Filton aerodrome shut last year.

However, last December, interest was registered by a mystery investor in reopening Sheffield City Aiport, despite its location just 25 miles from Robin Hood, Doncaster.




Airport boss hits back over claims

By David Bale 

April 2, 2013  (Eastern Daily Press.24)

The boss at Norwich International airport has hit back at claims that Britain has too many airports and that some, including Norwich, faced an uphill battle to justify their existence.

Paul Kehoe, chief executive of Birmingham airport, said that Britain has twice as many airports as it needs, which was the legacy of a short-lived boom in budget travel, and questioned whether airports such as Norwich, Blackpool, Doncaster and Middlesbrough were sustainable.

Many regional terminals are suffering a hangover after expanding in response to a low-cost travel boom before the 2008 financial crisis.

The number of passengers passing through UK airports peaked at 240m in 2007 and has since fallen to 221m. Norwich’s usage has halved since its peak. In 2007, Norwich had 699,000 passengers and in 2012 397,000.

But regional airports have immediately hit back, saying they boosted local economies but were held back by air fare taxes.

Andrew Bell, chief executive Norwich airport, said: “Norwich airport was not simply built for the ‘low-cost boom’ that preceded the financial crisis in 2008 and its established existence before and after this period underlines its importance and sustainability for the benefit of its region.

“With most of the airports in the UK being privately owned, it is, of course, the market that will justify the continuing existence of one airport over another. I agree that there are airports in the UK whose continued existence may be less than certain in the unforgiving glare of market forces, but Norwich International is certainly not one of them.”

He added: “Unfortunately, when trying to draw conclusions about an airport’s sustainability based solely on passenger numbers, it is easy for the casual observer to miss the other fundamental aspects of some airport’s business models. In Norwich’s case, the business has diverse and strong foundations.”

Mr Kehoe said that there were 20 airports handling commercial flights in an area between Leeds and Southampton. “Everybody’s got an airport,” Mr Kehoe said. “Is that sustainable in the long-term?”

He said that in economic terms there were only eight British cities that needed an airport, and added: “To be blunt, you’ve got to look long and hard at the likes of Blackpool, Doncaster, Durham and Norwich.”