Howard Greaves’ letter about Doncaster Airport hits the nail on the head. Airports cannot force airlines to fly in. Airlines will only use a given airport if they think they can make money by doing so. If the airport managers can persuade enough airlines to do this, then the airport will make money. Unfortunately, this has never been achieved at Doncaster.
Doncaster Airport has two main problems - not enough people living close by and lots of competition from other airports.
The picture is the same with cargo - the major freight airlines selected East Midlands as their northern cargo hub years ago. Why would they switch to Doncaster? The new FARRRS road link will not change this situation.
Doncaster Airport’s Master Plan lists some amazingly unrealistic traffic predictions. The Plan predicts a passenger total of over 2 million in 2014; in fact the actual total looks likely to be around 700,000 (about one third of the forecast).
It’s even worse with cargo - the Plan predicts a minimum of 63,300 tonnes of cargo in 2016. In reality, the annual total has been less than 400 tonnes every year since 2008. There is demand for air services to South Yorkshire, but that demand is not big enough to sustain an airport like Doncaster.
There is an old line which says, ‘If you build it, they will come’ (maybe Doncaster Airport’s owners had this in mind when they decided to convert RAF Finningley into Robin Hood Airport). Unfortunately, this does not apply with airports. Just look at all the new airports in Spain which now stand empty. Doncaster Airport has been open for almost a decade, and its traffic totals drop further behind target each year.
Waiting to see what happens when FARRRS opens is simply a waste of time. Business leaders in Sheffield should take a fresh look at Sheffield City Airport. Sheffield City’s location and size make it a much more realistic solution to the city’s business travel needs.
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