The consensus view is that the summer lull in air travel in the British Isles, including to and from the Isle of Man, has been in some part due to the Olympics. As Britain – including the Island – basked in the golden glory of the London 2012 Olympics and Paralympics, it seems that many decided to stay at home to enjoy the spectacle. Latest figures from the UK Civil Aviation Authority showed that almost 36 of the 58 reporting airports in the British Isle suffered decreases in August, including the IOM, and three quarters of these airports saw greater declines than Ronaldsway. Added to this, the poor summer weather has further dampened enthusiasm for leisure travel.
Ann Reynolds, the Airport’s Director, was nevertheless disappointed with the out turn.
'Whilst our performance is very much in line with others given this very unusual summer, having followed a general underlying trend of matching last year’s figures despite tough economic times, I had hoped that in July and August we would continue along these lines. Therefore the reductions of 3% concerned me, although I learnt of a similar pattern emerging with UK regional traffic as a whole” she said. “Looking at how UK and Channel Islands’ Airports have performed during July, primarily due to the ‘stay-home’ impact of the Olympics, I remain comfortable that we are still keeping pace with the overall trend of air traffic performance. However, Ann confirmed that the underlying trend shows little sign of a recovery in air passenger traffic to and from the Island. August saw small decreases in Isle of Man passengers across many routes, with the major impact from the withdrawal of the Southampton route, which had generated over 1,800 passengers in August 2011. The substantial cutback in the frequency of flights to Luton also impacted traffic on the service by 900 passengers. Leeds and Birmingham saw decreases of almost 10%, whilst Liverpool unusually experienced a reduction of almost 500 passengers – around 3%. Six further routes were each up to 160 passengers down.
These decreases, whilst fuelled by the decision by a large proportion of the leisure market to stay at home and be part of the Olympics, may have dented our ability to record a positive increase for 2012,' added Ann. 'Moreover, I am expecting a sizable drop in September as, in 2011 we enjoyed an unexpected boost in passenger traffic due to the Airport’s busy role at the end of the 2011 Commonwealth Youth Games due to the difficult sea conditions.'
There were some positive outcomes in August with both the Flybe Gatwick, and British Airways London City routes adding over 550 passengers, partially compensating for the Luton losses. The Manx2.com flights to Gloucester and Newcastle were up on last year with their Oxford service having the best month so far with 727 passengers using the daily service. The Flybe Bristol route also had a good month, increasing by 15% over 2011 and just under 500 additional passengers flew on between the Island and Manchester, exactly compensating for the Liverpool decrease.
Minister of Infrastructure, David Cretney MHK acknowledged the impact of the Olympics on the Island’s visitor traffic and business travel, but remained concerned about the flat underlying trend for the Island’s air passenger traffic.
'We were delighted to reinstate the London City route with BA in May and by August this service was operating at full frequency and this, together with the new Manx2.com Oxford and Loganair Norwich routes, has certainly helped to stabilise traffic levels,” he said. “Recognising that we will see a dip against 2011 in September, we will be watching carefully the underlying traffic trends going forward, with London 2012 and the holiday period over, to particularly monitor how the business market performs over the final months of the year.'