Passenger numbers passing through the Isle of Man Airport increased once again during February – but the positive result had a little help from the fact that it was a leap year! 51,202 passengers used Ronaldsway last month, an increase of 4.23% over February 2011. Whilst many of the almost 2100 additional passengers were as a result of the extra day in the month, even without the leap year, an increase would have been recorded of just under 1%.
Following an increase of 1.3% in January, the result underlines the continued challenge that airlines have to generate steady growth in air traffic in the early part of 2012, not just with routes to the Island, but throughout the UK and Europe. In fact, the small, but steady, increase recorded by Isle of Man air traffic emphasises the comparative strength of the air travel market to from the Island, and also the solidity of the Island’s economy, a point illustrated by Ann Reynolds, Airport Director.
'Many of our airlines have trimmed back the frequencies of their flights over the winter period, in anticipation of lean times,'
'However, the percentage of seats filled – the load factors – of a good proportion of the key routes during February were better than anticipated. Top of the class in terms of load factor was the Flybe ski flights to Geneva with over 85% of seats sold, but the airline’s Gatwick, Liverpool and Luton flights also achieved over 60%. Virtually all of Manx2.com’s routes were between 55% and 60% full and easyJet was also well into the 60s.'
As usual, the driving force was the Northwest routes to the Island with both easyJet and Flybe scoring increases which raised the Liverpool traffic by 17%. The Flybe Manchester route also increased by 3.5% with the Manx2.com Blackpool service up by 3.6%. The Birmingham route also did well, increasing by 4.4% and the Southampton route, terminated by Flybe at the end of the month due to poor load factors, added 900 passengers to the total, but only managed just over a quarter of the seats filled on the service.
'We are naturally very disappointed to lose the Southampton route as it was contributing solidly to our passenger throughput, with over 14,400 passengers during 2011, and was an important link for the Island to the South coast of England,'
'This, together with the very recent announcement of the termination of the London City route by Aer Arann, is indicative of the very hard times that airlines continue to have on regional routes as a whole. We are continuing to strive to find new operators for both of the routes, but in the meantime, the new daily Manx2.com service to Oxford is a positive contribution which will draw passengers from both the Southampton and West London markets, and the particularly convenient for passengers looking to travel to central Southern England'
Indeed, regionally London traffic fell by almost 1,000 passengers for the second month in succession, with decreases recorded in passenger numbers to and from the capital for eight out of the last nine months. This contrasts the continued buoyancy of routes linking North West England with the Island which together increased by almost 30,000 passengers during 2011, and was up by over 2,300, - over 10% - in February.
Departmental Member for Ports, David Callister MLC, recognises the challenges that many of the airlines serving the Island currently have.
'The six airlines that currently provide 18 routes serving the Isle of Man have endured a long period where routes have been marginal, but they have generally resolutely sustained services wherever possible,'
'I want to emphasise our gratitude for their continued support through these tough times, as our air service links are fundamental to both the economy and lifestyle of the Island. I remain cautiously optimistic that we can look forward to a gradual improvement to the general economic situation, and with that the restoration of these important links or at least the reinstatement of the valuable capacity to South and South-East England.'