have a quick look at the latest exciting news to come from Manston
airport. The suggestion is that KLM’s decision as whether or not to run a
twice a day service between Manton and Schipol will be influenced (but
not decided) by the response to Manston’s online survey.
- Charles Buchanan says that KLM would have a plane parked at Manston overnight, ready to fly to Schipol each morning.
- Charles Buchanan has often said that planes only make money when
they are in the air, so it follows that KLM would want their “Manston”
plane back in Schipol bright and early so that it has plenty of working
(flying) hours ahead of it through the rest of the day.
- Schipol Airport is effectively closed between 10pm and 6am, and Amsterdam is one hour ahead of us (at the moment).
- The flight time from Manston to Schipol would be about 40 minutes.
- To arrive in Schipol at 6am (local time), KLM’s “Manston” plane would have to leave at 4.20am (local time).
- The online questionnaire doesn’t ask what time of day people would like to fly – now you know why.
- The online questionnaire doesn’t ask how much people would be prepared to pay for their flight.
As influential local commentator Maurice Byford has pointed out:
Any business worth its salt would carry out due diligence, population
and traffic analysis and SWOT analysis without resorting to a survey.
You might want to ask, how many people travel to Europe from Kent, but
then you need only look at the traffic figures from EuroStar train from
to see the passenger footfall for Belgium.
There are plenty of reputable consultancies that specialise in
providing detailed economic and demographic analyses to help businesses
make rational commercial decisions. They have access to all the
available data on business activities, income distribution and
socio-economic groupings by post code. They have a pretty good idea how
many people run businesses with European interests, and how many people
are likely to take weekend jaunts to the Continent or connect to
It is very likely that KLM have already done their homework, which is why they were looking for £600,000 of public money
to underwrite the risk of operating from Manston. The online survey
doesn’t cover two of the questions that KLM most clearly need answered –
how much will people pay, and how willing are they to accept KLM’s
offering (i.e. first thing and last thing, and nothing in between).
Airlines are high investment, high throughput, low margin businesses.
They employ people full-time to examine every available business
opportunity, and re-examine each option every couple of years. All of
the major airlines will have examined and re-examined Manston over the
years it has been owned by Infratil. With the exception of FlyBe’s
tentative experiment with a couple of minor routes (which failed for
lack of passengers), there have been no takers.
KLM’s interest in Manston may simply be that it is cheaper to park a
plane there than at Schipol, and there’s the possibility that the
passenger fares would exceed the fuel costs to Schipol. In all
probability, KLM will discover what others have discovered before them –
Manston’s catchment area cannot support a successful passenger or
freight airport. It doesn’t matter how keen the local residents or the
local businesses are – there simple aren’t enough of them.
After years of fanciful forecasts, missed targets and false hopes,
this may be Infratil’s legacy – a minimal passenger service that only
ever flies at night, while the airport is almost entirely idle through
the 16 hours of daytime. This is Infratil waving goodbye, with two