Norwich airport suffers passenger fall
Sam WilliamsThe boss of Norwich International airport has predicted a return to growth this year after a 30pc slump in passenger numbers saw revenues fall by �2.4m.Sam Williams
The boss of Norwich International airport has predicted a return to growth this year after a 30pc slump in passenger numbers saw revenues fall by �2.4m.
Managing director Elliott Summers said passenger numbers at the airport fell from 575,000 in 2008/09 to a predicted 404,000 for the year ending March 31, with fewer people flying in the recession, while turnover dropped from �12.4m to �10m.
But despite tough trading conditions Mr Summers said an expansion in charter flights would spearhead growth in passengers in coming years, with 475,000 passengers forecast in the 2010/11 financial year.
Eight new charter routes have been confirmed, including Tenerife, Bulgaria, Madeira, Portugal, Tunisia and Guernsey.
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And Mr Summers said he was in talks with airlines over possible new services from Norwich to Newcastle, Belfast, Dublin, Glasgow, Brussels and Dusseldorf.
Accounts for 2008/09 show the airport made a pre-tax loss of �1.36m, and despite efficiency savings of �1.4m the results for the current year are likely to be significantly worse after the drop in turnover.
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But despite the setback Mr Summers said the airport was still on course to generate a profit by 2014, a target set in a five-year plan unveiled when Mr Summers took over the role in January 2009.
He said: 'In simple terms the past year has been really tough, with passenger numbers down and a loss of revenue of �2.4m.
'The good news is we have seen an increase in charter business, with eight new destinations, which is almost unheard of in UK regional airports and we are very pleased with that.
'We have done incredibly well to survive and generate new business, and growth is looking very healthy.
'I think we have just passed the bottom, but cash flow is still very tight. As we get into the summer I expect the situation to improve.
'Providing we keep relations with customers and airlines right I can see nothing but growth. Things are all very much on the up.'
Mr Summers said the airport had also seen growth in helicopter passengers on routes serving the offshore oil and gas industry, up about 10pc to 80,000 this year.
Two new hangars are also planned, one for the oil and gas sector and a second for an expansion of private jet flights aimed at business customers, which could help boost passenger numbers and income.
But Mr Summers said the controversial �5 airport development fee (ADF), charged to all departing passengers, was set to remain but would not be increased.
The fee generates income for the development of the airport, and has been used to help fund better facilities and a new fire training rig, and had been 'essential' for securing the new charter routes, Mr Summers added.
In a bid to reduce costs Mr Summers said the contract with Group 4 Security had been terminated and a new security operator appointed, while talks were underway to improve taxi services and maximise income from parking charges.
The airport employs about 180 following 10 redundancies last year.
The past few years have been a turbulent time for the airport. In 2008 scheduled flights to three Spanish destinations were axed just months after they started when airline LTE collapsed.
The airport saw routes to Glasgow and Paris cut by budget airline Flybe the same year, and relations with the operator hit a low in the spring of 2008 when Flybe paid actors to take flights from Norwich in order to qualify for a �280,000 bonus for hitting passenger targets.
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Passenger numbers at Norwich International
Flights from Norwich airport serve a mix of tourism and business passengers, in addition to helicopter services supporting the offshore oil and gas industry in the North Sea.
The current financial year has seen a significant drop in scheduled flight passengers, with fewer business and holiday travellers, while charter flight numbers have remained roughly stable.
The offshore helicopter traffic has grown in recent years, up about 10pc to 80,000 expected in this financial year.
Scheduled flight passengers
Charter flight passengers
Offshore helicopter passengers
How have other airports fared?
Across the country, airports saw a 7.2pc drop in passenger numbers in 2009 compared to the previous year, at 221.3 million.
The largest airports - Heathrow and Gatwick - saw falls of 1.5pc and 5.3pc respectively, to 65.9 million and 32.4 million.
Stansted saw a fall of 10.7pc to 19.5m. But many regional airports, like Norwich, saw much steeper drops last year.