The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) has expressed further dismay at the new figures issued by the Civil Aviation Authority which show that Doncaster’s Robin Hood Airport suffered another fall in passenger numbers in May, whilst aviation in other regions is booming.
East Midlands, Leeds-Bradford and Manchester Airports all enjoyed a bumper month compared with May 2012. At Leeds-Bradford, over 329,000 passengers used the airport in May, 19.6 per cent up on last year. Passenger numbers were also up at Manchester (10.7 per cent) and East Midlands (8.9 per cent). But at Robin Hood the total was only 67,000, a fall of 0.7 per cent.
In May, traffic increased at a number of UK city centre/business airports (monthly passenger numbers were up 20 per cent at London City Airport, 8.7 per cent at Belfast City Airport and 4.8 per cent at Southampton). This adds substance to the FSB’s argument that Sheffield City Airport would provide South Yorkshire businesses with fast, convenient links to major business destinations in the UK and Europe.
FSB regional chairman Gordon Millward said:
“It has been reported in the past week that the runway at Sheffield City Airport is to be dug up to make way for a business park. This latest monthly flight data demonstrates that Sheffield City Region is falling further behind its competitors. Robin Hood Airport offers only flights to holiday destinations, along with a number of cities in Poland and Lithuania.
“No services to recognised business destinations are available, but even the services to holiday destinations are showing a significant annual decline.
“Despite suggestions that the recession is to blame for Robin Hood’s woes, CAA data indicates that traffic at other airports in the region has actually risen: since 2010, passenger numbers at both Leeds-Bradford and Manchester have grown each year.
“Once again we are calling for a public enquiry into the potential for Sheffield’s City Airport to be reopened so that Sheffield can be reconnected with major European business centres. Although Robin Hood continues to offer flights to leisure destinations, it seems that business airlines believe it is too far from population centres in South Yorkshire.
“We continue to support Robin Hood but we believe South Yorkshire’s business travel needs would be better served by the restoration of Sheffield City Airport.
“Not only does a local airport improve connectivity for the businesses already here, it gives legitimacy to the campaign to attract inward investment. South Yorkshire has a highly skilled and motivated workforce, a willingness to adapt to technology and is at the very heart of the UK road network.
“These attributes provide the ideal location for overseas firms looking to invest in UK markets, but the absence of a viable airport to support business travel negates South Yorkshire’s otherwise comprehensive investment offer.”
Responding to the FSB’s comments, Steve Gill, managing director of Robin Hood Airport Doncaster Sheffield, said:
“The airport’s official figures demonstrate a return to growth for DSA following a challenging time for the industry.
“A year on year comparison does show a slight drop in figures for Doncaster Sheffield Airport however we expect DSA to grow over the current financial year and on a positive note May 2013 demonstrates month on month growth of over 4.5 per cent.
“We have a new management structure in place at Doncaster Sheffield Airport. This team are working with renewed vigour to develop new relationships and strengthen existing ones.
“It is an exciting time for us with the FARRRS link road development edging closer to becoming a reality, which will cut journey times from Sheffield to the airport to around 25 minutes. “We are delighted by the region’s desire for the need for business routes to support the Sheffield City Region’s companies as this gives us a real target for growth which will be assisted greatly by the new road.
“Doncaster Sheffield Airport currently offers connectivity to over 30 destinations and provides a growing cargo offer.
“The airport brings economic benefits to the area and we are pleased that the Chambers of Commerce from the city region recognise this and have given us their support, by working together we will be able to reach our potential.”