The expectation of passenger numbers matching 2011 levels received a slight setback in July as consistent mist and fog during the early part of the month disrupted air travel to and from the Island. The month finished with 61,820 passengers passing through the Airport, 1,700 fewer than in July 2011, giving an overall 2.68% reduction.
The weather affected many of the Island’s air services with over half of the routes from Ronaldsway seeing decreases, but almost half of these only falling by under 2%. However, another key reason for the small overall decrease was the absence of the Southampton link which, in July 2011, generated over 1,850 passengers, together with the substantial cutback in the frequency of flights to Luton causing a 31% fall in passengers on the route – some 1,000 fewer than last year. The Birmingham service also saw a 444 passenger decrease and interestingly, whilst charter traffic was up by 7%, private and club flying was clearly severely affected by weather, and fell by 270 passengers or 36.5%.
On the positive side, the new Isle of Man routes have all performed well. British Airways’ route linking the Island with London City generated 6.3% more passengers in the first complete month of full operation than were carried by the previous operator, Aer Arann, in 2011. Similarly the recently introduced Manx2.com London Oxford service again produced a solid third month of operation with over 700 passengers, nearly 100 more than forecast. Meanwhile Loganair’s weekly summer Norwich route had an outstanding month, carrying 30% more passengers than expected, with 90% of the available seats taken up by passengers eager to sample the new link.
Airport Director, Ann Reynolds, summed up the July outturn.
'We had forecast to be very slightly short of 2011 levels for July, but ended up with some 2.5% fewer passengers than we expected,'
'Unfortunately, the Island’s weather at this time of the year can be pretty unpredictable and delays and cancellations over just a few days can easily shave a couple of percent from our monthly passenger throughput. Add this one or two technical problems with aircraft and the gap left by the lack of the Southampton route and the 2.7% decrease is not surprising.'
However, Ann also admitted that there are some real positives to be taken from the July figures.
'Our new routes are performing very well – significantly better than was predicted – which is very encouraging,'
'Indeed, Loganair have just added a further month of weekend departures to their summer Norwich service following the success of the route, and flights will now continue to late October.'
Another encouraging trend has been the continued good performance of all of the North West routes. Having set the pace for growth over the past two years Liverpool, for the second successive month, effectively matched July 2011, whilst the Flybe Manchester and Manx2.com Blackpool routes both saw solid increases. Manchester rose by 7.3% and Blackpool by 12.4%, ensuring that traffic between the Island and the North West rose overall by over 1,000 passengers.
Departmental Member for Ports, David Callister MLC underlined the fact that the underlying trend, despite the background of economic difficulties in the UK and Europe, is that the Island’s air traffic continues to hold up well in 2012.
'A small reduction for July may be disappointing, but let’s put it into perspective,'
'The UK is in double-dip recession and everyone is feeling the impact of the austerity measures, and yet, taking away the affect of the weather, our July air passenger figures have essentially stayed at 2011 levels. Moreover, we are continuing to add routes to our network and these, too, are proving successful. I would suggest that this is no small achievement!'