by its own website as ‘one of the fastest growing regional airports
in the UK,’ Newquay Cornwall Airport (NQY/EGDG) faces huge challenges
to its future. Cornwall’s sole commercial airport uses airfield
facilities provided by Royal Air Force (RAF) St. Mawgan. Located on the
easterly side of the runway, current civilian operations rely upon those
of the military to the west. Recent UK government decisions on the future
of the RAF base, have forced the airport authority and airlines to plan
for fundamental change in the next few years.
than 250 miles from London and over 5 hours journey by road or rail, Newquay
Airport caters to a significant market keen to fly from a local terminal.
Although Plymouth is just 47 miles away, its runway is too short to allow
anything more than limited operations by turboprops. The closest regional
airports, Exeter (90 miles) and Bristol (140 miles), also require lengthy
journeys in terms of both time anddistance. This remoteness however can
cause its own problems when Newquay Airport is closed due to wild or foggy
weather to which the field is prone.
have always been carried out on a far more limited scale than those of
the military. In the years after the war, lifeline routes to the Isles
of Scilly, London and other parts of the UK were maintained by a succession
of independent airlines using a variety of classic equipment. From Rapides
of Mayflower Air Services and Scillonia, to Islanders operated by Brymon
Airways and Westward Airways, through Dakotas of Skyways and British Westpoint
to Viscounts and Heralds of British Midland and Brymon, the small civilian
terminal saw them all.
At busy times,
the check-in area and departure lounge can suffer from overcrowding. To
help to alleviate these problems, a £2.8 million terminal extension
is due for completion in early 2006. In addition to providing additional
space for passengers, the works will increase the number of car parking
spaces beyond the 450 currently available. When completed, the extended
terminal will increase the annual passenger capacity to 400,000.
Demands by the business community for speedy connections to the rest of the UK are reflected in the bulk of operations from the airport. In terms of movements, the airport’s largest operator is Air Southwest with their fleet of four DHC-8-300. In addition to four daily return flights on the prime route to London Gatwick, the airline also schedules flights to Bristol, Dublin, Leeds/Bradford and Manchester. In the 2005 timetable, the latter two destinations required a change of plane in Bristol. From April 2006 however, they will be served non-stop and will be joined by twice-daily flights to Cardiff. In addition, Air Wales have added a daily operation to Cork with ATR42 aircraft. Based in the Isle of Scilly, Skybus provide up to 20 weekly flights linking Newquay with St. Mary’s using DHC-6 Twin Otter equipment. Some of these flights originate in Southampton and stage through the airport on their journey west.
leisure market has always provided seasonal traffic and low-cost carriers
have been quick to realise the potential. Ryanair were the first to do
so with a daily, then double daily, Boeing 737 service to London Stansted.
For Summer 2006, BMI Baby will operate daily Boeing 737 flights to Manchester
along with four weekly services to Durham Tees Valley. In a major expansion,
on November 3, 2005, Monarch Airlines introduced a thrice weekly scheduled
service from Málaga using an Airbus A320 newly based on the Costa
Del Sol. Although no regular inclusive tour (IT) flights are operated,
ad-hoc visits are made by aircraft of Finnair, Austrian Airlines and Swiss
International in addition to charters to Barbados ferrying cruise passengers.
With the closure of RAF St. Mawgan, the airfield functions currently undertaken by the military will need to pass into civilian hands. The costs of safeguarding continued commercial operations will rise considerably. It is for this reason that Cornwall County Council has placed so much importance on the introduction of the ADF. The levying of the charge has brought strong resistance from airlines, with the loudest objections being made by Ryanair. In November 2005, the airline withdrew one of its two daily flights to London Stansted in protest. It has been estimated that this withdrawal will reduce passenger numbers by nearly 100,000 per annum. In addition, press reports at the time suggested that the airline had cancelled plans to offer direct flights to Spain and Italy owing to its introduction. At the end of December, there were also reports that the airline was planning to withdraw all services at the end of March 2006. Adding to the air of uncertainty, Monarch confirmed that it was reviewing the future of its own operation beyond the end of April 2006.
With the impending
closure of RAF St. Mawgan, the operators of Cornwall Newquay Airport need
to secure its viability and long-term future. The airport is successful
with increasing demand and passenger numbers (prior to Ryanair’s
decision to leave). In being the first airport in the UK to introduce
a direct fee to pay for development, the airport authorities have taken
a bold step. It remains to be seen whether passengers and airlines will
accept the strategy and allow the civilian airport’s continued operation
after March 2007.
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