Whilst the debate over the UK runway capacity needs for the next 30 years politically bounces back and forth, 2012 has seen smaller niche regional airports seize the opportunity to also receive positive commercial fallout from an upward trend in air travel demand. North of the Thames and under the umbrella of the haulage group Stobart, Southend Airport with a significant runway and terminal infrastructure improvement project complete has seen the benefit of this investment with the arrival of easyJet and Aer Lingus amongst others.
New services are likely to deliver in excess of 100,000 passengers through London Oxford within the first year of operation. Aimed primarily at the corporate travel community, services will reflect the travel needs of the business community. The routes identified have large corporate travel volumes and as such require a day return facility for those customers. Minoan will establish a base for 3 Fokker F50 aircraft from its fleet at London Oxford, operated by locally recruited crews.
Compared with established travel methods from other airports,the combination of reduced surface transport access times to London Oxford for Oxfordshire residents, lower car park charges, quick passenger processing times through the airport terminal and convenient departure times will significantly improve the flying experience for the traveller. Arriving passengers at London Oxford can expect 'plane to car' times of 10 minutes or less.
Oxford and the surrounding county rank in the top 3 UK destinations for receiving international visitors and Minoan's operations will equally appeal to incoming passengers, looking for easy access to the city for weekend breaks.
The surface transport convenience is something all niche airports are able to play on when viewing their larger rivals who are often more distant from the customer starting point, have remote car parks(and thus additional travel time from car park to terminal) , excessive security queues, all of which frustrate and add to the wasted travel time for the paying customer.
So whilst the UK traveller gets ever more frustrated with the continued imposition of the highest global air passenger departure tax, the Air Passenger Duty (APD), there are at least some strands of light appearing across the UK air transport infrastructure .
Enough spare runway capacity exists in the UK to last another 20 years. However certain politicians, lobby groups and airlines with vested interests argue this capacity is in the wrong place. With cross party pledges not to approve runway 3 at Heathrow, are the decision makers about to fudge it again ? Perhaps the politicians are more interested in the corporate vote, supporting biased carriers and institutions than delivering what is required by the population of the country, those who vote for them . Meanwhile in the UK, the regional airports are just getting on with processing passengers and making money.
What do you think?