90% would use airport if more destinations were offered

The new Thomson Dreamliner aeroplane during a training exercise at Doncaster Sheffield Robin Hood Airport. Picture: Andrew Roe
The new Thomson Dreamliner aeroplane during a training exercise at Doncaster Sheffield Robin Hood Airport. Picture: Andrew Roe
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Manchester continues to be the first choice airport for most travellers from South Yorkshire, followed by East Midlands.

More than two thirds of South Yorkshire flyers say they use Manchester “often” or “very often” while one in four said the same of East Midlands, while one in seven used Heathrow on a similar basis.

Just one in 14 said they used Robin Hood often or very often – a similar proportion to those using Leeds Bradford and fewer than use Stansted or Liverpool John Lennon Airports.

However, nine out of 10 said they would like to use Robin Hood if it had flights to a wider range of destinations.

Dr Genovese says: “Manchester is the biggest international and continental airport in the region, but, surprisingly we were able to show that, if possible, people would prefer flying from smaller regional airports – particularly to destinations in Europe – because that cuts the time they spend in the airport.

Only one in 10 said they were ‘satisfied’ or ‘very satisfied’ with the range of destinations served by Robin Hood and two thirds pronounced themselves ‘dissatisfied’ or ‘very dissatisfied’.

Nine out of 10 people cited the lack of destinations served as the biggest obstacle to using the airport, followed by around a third who cited lack of accessibility and connectivity.

“One of the big problems is accessibility,” says Dr Andrea Genovese.

“Of course there is the new road linking to the M18, but accessing the road by public transport has been quite difficult – and there is no direct connection from Sheffield, even though it is called Doncaster Sheffield Airport. There isn’t even a sign pointing to the airport from Sheffield.

“To get there by public transport, you have to take a train to Doncaster and then a bus or taxi – and there isn’t a direct bus service.

“There is a bus, but it makes many stops on the way to the airport.

“The parking is brilliant, but the problem is accessibility.”

While access is currently a problem, FARRRS – the Finningley and Rossington Regeneration Route Scheme – will change all that.

FARRRS creates a link between the M18, Robin Hood Airport and the site of the multimillion pound Inland Port or iPort project which is set to give a further boost to Doncaster’s bid to become the UK’s premier logistics hub.

Airport chiefs believe FARRRS will be transformational, cutting up to 20 minutes off journey times to the airport, almost doubling the number of people within 30 minutes of the airport from 600,000 to 1.1 million and increasing the number within an hour to around six million.

The road alone will give the airport a similar catchment area to its two closest competitors – East Midlands and Leeds.

The belief is that the road will make Robin Hood the airport of choice for many more people, boosting passenger numbers well beyond the 720,000 that used the airport last year and increasing the number of destinations it serves and airlines.

If that happens it could be the catalyst for a railway station to be built to serve the airport.

Approval has already been given for a station on the line that runs near to the airport, but airport passenger numbers have to reach a preset level to trigger construction.

FARRRS isn’t due to be completed until early 2016, but airport chiefs are already approaching airlines, using the Sheffield University research and its own studies as evidence of the demand for new routes.

They have also been urging the business community and the general public to add their voices to its case.

Given that it takes airlines up to 24 months to make a decision and introduce a new service and that FARRRS will take 18 months to complete, the timing of the launch of the airport’s campaign to secure new routes could not be better.