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All aboard the 4.20am flight to Amsterdam?

Let’s
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
long-haul flights.

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
fingers.

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24 comments

  1. [Yogi] Wonderful to see so many people speaking truth about this issue instead of the usual eyewash.

  2. [onlyfools] No wonder Charlie boy’s got that big grin on his face, has he pulled it off @ last? KLM are holding a dinner in Canterbury within the next week or so with their decision as to whether to fly from Manston or not, Charlie boy’s on line request for KLM is said to have received 9,066 e-mails with 96% wanting to fly from Manston, strange isn’t it when-ever Manston run a survey it always comes back massively in their favour.

  3. [An avid airport supporter] I think we shall see what the announcement is before making any assumptions. Things are never quite what they seem when Manston is involved.

  4. [Kent Resident] Regarding his poll in favour by 96% :I think the 96% of respondents would like to fly direct from Manston to their destination wherever that is, if that was what’s on offer, but it isn’t. You would have to fly from Manston to Amsterdam and then wait for a connection from there, maybe needing a hotel for the night. That is what’s on offer. There is quite some misconception in this poll of his.The fact is, It would still be quicker, cheaper and easier to fly direct from Gatwick or Heathrow to your final destination for most Kent residents.

  5. [birdseye] I’ve just checked the KLM flight details from Norwich, which is about the same flying time (1 hour) as Manston, but has a far larger catchment area. They have two morning flights – 0620 (137) and 0945 (187) – bet KLM didn’t mention the fares when they (?) carried out their market research.KLM’s smallest planes seat over 250 people. That’s 500+ people to ship out of this corner of the world every day – 3500 per week. Does anyone (are you listening Clive) seriously think that there are 3500 people between here and Faversham who want to go to Schipol every week? Anywhere much beyond Faversham and Gatwick is closer.Seeing Clive’s about turn on night flights leads me to think how Cllrs Alexandreou and Gibson must be feeling this morning – best get your noses in the trough you two – you’ll be out at the next election.

  6. [slipway bob] Interesting that the area most affected by KLM and Infratil gets shunned in favour of some upper class do for the "Damp Squib Announcement" (KLM) in Canterbury. I am wondering when the big announcement for the scram-jet space flights will be voiced by the turkey’s running the show (I kid you not folks).

  7. [Catflap] The astute might be wondering why it is supposed to be economical to catch a connecting flight to Schipol to pick up a connecting flights, but not economical to get a connecting flight to Heathrow. The answer is simple. It’s cheaper to get the car, bus, train or even a taxi to Heathrow. And herein lies the problem with Charlie’s plan. Nobody in their right minds is going to pay extra money to fly from Schipol. In the case of people flying to the States, not only will they be paying extra money, it will be adding a good couple of hours to their journey, both ways. I don’t know how he has persuaded KLM to go along with this idiocy, but it is obvious to me that the whole thing makes no economic sense.One caveat: I stated that nobody in their right minds would fly to Schipol in favour of Heathrow. There is in Thanet a tiny pocket of pro-airport loonies who would do it if they had any money. Sadly for Charlie, they don’t have any money because they are loonies and they wouldn’t know a viable business prospect if it punched them in the face. Perhaps KLM will give a big discount to anyone wearing an "I luv Manstun" baseball cap. The rednecks are alive and well and living in Thanet, yee-haa.

  8. [Mr reality] A flight to the states won’t just add a couple of extra hours flight time. You’ve got to factor in a few hours wait time at Schiphol as well. I’d say if you are flying to the States and you live in Margate, Canterbury or Dover, you’ll just go from Gatwick or Heathrow.

  9. I would have thought KLM would be more interested in Stanstead maybe this is a ploy to sell Manston a bit quicker you scratch our back we’ll scratch yours, I can’t see Infratil leaving KLM or the freight flights they have @ present @ Manston.[onlyfools]

  10. Last year, Infratil asked the government for 600,000 as a sweetener to KLM to start two flights a day from Manston. They also said they needed 500,000 to pay for the 23 jobs that these two flights a day would create. Infratil said:"The operation of an air service from Manston (Kent International) Airport to a European hub would be unlikely to happen at all without the Airport subsidising the airline operation. In the current economic environment, the Airport, operating as it does at an annual loss, is not in a position to provide that subsidy to the level that would sufficiently encourage the airline to commence operations."The government didn’t cough up. The airport is still making a loss so I doubt it’ll be offering KLM 600,000 of Infratil’s own money. Infratil were quite clear that KLM would not come without being paid by the UK government. I doubt anything has changed since then, so this KLM piece of puffery that the local media are running is just that – a PR stunt to help sell Manston and to keep local people hanging on to the dream of a viable airport.[Local business woman]

  11. The pro-airport loonies keep claiming that the only other option for the site would be housing. Strange then that an 800 acre site at Ebbsfleet has now been earmarked for a fantastic new theme park, creating thousands of jobs. Why wasn’t Thanet in the running for this? The answer is simple. It’s the same reason as we weren’t in the running for the factory manufactuing wind-turbines – the tiny minority of loud-mouthed loonies who can’t see past the ends of their noses, and think they can dictate to the silent majority via the letters page of loony-friendly Gazette. They can’t see any possibility other than an airport and, as a result, they have squandered opportunity after opportunity to generate thousands of jobs and to regenerate the area. We should be seeking forward-thinking solutions to our economic plight and not listening to loonies who would take us back to the 1950’s.[Catflap]

  12. Why would any person want to fly to Amsterdam to connect to another flight elsewhere at unearthly times when they can fly direct from either Heathrow or Gatwick? How would that be cheaper? How would it be more convenient? How would that benefit our economy here? Manston would just be a stepping stone. No tourists and no income for Thanet![Local resident]

  13. Go Catflap![catflapfan]

  14. Catflap has hit the nail on the head. Thanet needs regeneration which requires thought, open minds and a unified effort by the council and people to get things moving. The longer the Manston debate rages the longer other projects get overlooked.I really do wonder how the pro Manston loonies think this airport is going to become profitable. How much investment and cajoling will get people to use it? A great deal I think.Driving past the other day i noticed the car park was empty. So today I had a look on Google earth at the site and found that also on the day of the satellite photo the car park had about 10 cars in it. Tesco had more than I could be bothered to count. Luton was full. Duxford airfield had more cars parked there and it’s just for private planes I think. Now I know this is no sort of real test but to me it’s a little idea as to the current demand for this site. Nobody goes there. Not really. Not enough to make it work as a transport hub surely? And why would they come? It’s miles away from the rest of the country.I have no objections to this site becoming successful, I just cant see how it can be and I dont want to be duped into accepting late night freight which will offer no benefit to anyone in Thanet.[Rob]

  15. Yes Catflap,The lack of vision from KCC and the night flight airport lobby have thrown up yet another smokescreen and lost an opportunity for Thanet as a whole.Unless things change we can only look forward to money being spunked and lost on ridiculous development projects like roads into nowhere, and a perpetually rule breaking airport business. I can’t see why the Tories who are typically anti welfare/nanny state seem to make an exception of the airport as such.My only advice to the decision makers that have let Infratil dwell like a benefit scrounger is that they should really travel beyond the Minster roundabout one day! There is a world out there full of opportunities for a plot like that runway![Rob]

  16. Good questions Matthew. It is a shame that more people in Thanet are not asking the same thing.The answer is in the way the Tory Party works. Someone in influence has a plan, they then whip up support and get commitments from other well placed individuals to work towards the realisation of that plan.In this case, Paul Carter, the Leader of KCC has a plan. It is a transport policy for Kent and is seen very much as his ‘legacy’. Included within that ‘legacy’ is the Parkway Station at Manston.However, Interreg funding for the station can’t be obtained unless there is a good business case for its creation. A successful and growing Airport would provide them with the right business case to obtain the funding and link in the Parkway station with the other projects that Paul Carter included in his Transport Vision for Kent.Therefore, the reason the Tories and Tory Councillors are fighting so hard to get it going is because they see it as part of a bigger plan and they are under pressure to make it happen from within.Now, there is a problem. Because when the ‘plan’ was conceived, the fastest rail links into London from Thanet took 1hr 45mins. It was perceived that such a slow service was crippling Thanet and so the plan was to enable a service that took just an ‘hour’ to get from Ramsgate to London Central.In between the creation of the plan until today we now have a service that takes 1hr 12 mins, which sort of upsets the apple cart, but fails to quite meet the 1hr target. So the plan is still valid and now becomes a idealistic fantasy. The theory being that if Thanet is only 1hr from London, businesses will swarm in to invest. It is the figures from this plan that enabled Mr Buchanan to come up with the 3,500 employment figures that he included in his business plan. A bigger work of fiction you are not likely to see outside the imaginings of JK Rowling.So the reason that Thanet Tory Councillors can see no further than the Airport as an option is because there is a political expedience in seeing it achieved.Thus, Buchanan gets the support he needs and Thanet ends up with decades old saga with little hope for resolution in the coming years.[Maurice Byford]

  17. Wonderful to see so many people speaking truth about this issue instead of the usual eyewash.[Yogi]

  18. No wonder Charlie boy’s got that big grin on his face, has he pulled it off @ last? KLM are holding a dinner in Canterbury within the next week or so with their decision as to whether to fly from Manston or not, Charlie boy’s on line request for KLM is said to have received 9,066 e-mails with 96% wanting to fly from Manston, strange isn’t it when-ever Manston run a survey it always comes back massively in their favour.[onlyfools]

  19. I think we shall see what the announcement is before making any assumptions. Things are never quite what they seem when Manston is involved.[An avid airport supporter? …not]

  20. Regarding his poll in favour by 96% :I think the 96% of respondents would like to fly direct from Manston to their destination wherever that is, if that was what’s on offer, but it isn’t. You would have to fly from Manston to Amsterdam and then wait for a connection from there, maybe needing a hotel for the night. That is what’s on offer. There is quite some misconception in this poll of his.The fact is, It would still be quicker, cheaper and easier to fly direct from Gatwick or Heathrow to your final destination for most Kent residents.[Kent resident]

  21. I’ve just checked the KLM flight details from Norwich, which is about the same flying time (1 hour) as Manston, but has a far larger catchment area. They have two morning flights – 0620 (137) and 0945 (187) – bet KLM didn’t mention the fares when they (?) carried out their market research.KLM’s smallest planes seat over 250 people. That’s 500+ people to ship out of this corner of the world every day – 3500 per week. Does anyone (are you listening Clive) seriously think that there are 3500 people between here and Faversham who want to go to Schipol every week? Anywhere much beyond Faversham and Gatwick is closer.Seeing Clive’s about turn on night flights leads me to think how Cllrs Alexandreou and Gibson must be feeling this morning – best get your noses in the trough you two – you’ll be out at the next election.[birdseye]

  22. Interesting that the area most affected by KLM and Infratil gets shunned in favour of some upper class do for the "Damp Squib Announcement" (KLM) in Canterbury. I am wondering when the big announcement for the scram-jet space flights will be voiced by the turkey’s running the show (I kid you not folks).[slipway bob]

  23. The astute might be wondering why it is supposed to be economical to catch a connecting flight to Schipol to pick up a connecting flights, but not economical to get a connecting flight to Heathrow. The answer is simple. It’s cheaper to get the car, bus, train or even a taxi to Heathrow. And herein lies the problem with Charlie’s plan. Nobody in their right minds is going to pay extra money to fly from Schipol. In the case of people flying to the States, not only will they be paying extra money, it will be adding a good couple of hours to their journey, both ways. I don’t know how he has persuaded KLM to go along with this idiocy, but it is obvious to me that the whole thing makes no economic sense.One caveat: I stated that nobody in their right minds would fly to Schipol in favour of Heathrow. There is in Thanet a tiny pocket of pro-airport loonies who would do it if they had any money. Sadly for Charlie, they don’t have any money because they are loonies and they wouldn’t know a viable business prospect if it punched them in the face. Perhaps KLM will give a big discount to anyone wearing an "I luv Manstun" baseball cap. The rednecks are alive and well and living in Thanet, yee-haa.[Catflap]

  24. A flight to the states won’t just add a couple of extra hours flight time. You’ve got to factor in a few hours wait time at Schiphol as well. I’d say if you are flying to the States and you live in Margate, Canterbury or Dover, you’ll just go from Gatwick or Heathrow.[Mr Reality]