Home ... NNF ... Manston ... Flybe quit Manston: analysis

Too few passengers

Flybe's decision makes it absolutely clear – Manston does not have the makings of a successful passenger airport.

The current owners of Manston airport (Infratil) have always pushed the story that they want Manston to be a mixed passenger and freight airport. We know that Ryanair and easyJet have both examined Manston airport carefully in the past. They both came to the same conclusion: if Manston airport was 10 miles further West, it would have a large enough catchment area to have the potential to succeed as a passenger airport.

Flybe quit Manston: analysis

Too few passengers

Flybe’s decision makes it absolutely clear – Manston does not have the makings of a successful passenger airport.

The current owners of Manston airport (Infratil) have always pushed the story that they want Manston to be a mixed passenger and freight airport. We know that Ryanair and easyJet have both examined Manston airport carefully in the past. They both came to the same conclusion: if Manston airport was 10 miles further West, it would have a large enough catchment area to have the potential to succeed as a passenger airport.

However, given that it is not practical to move the airport, the fact remains that 75% of its catchment area lies in the North Sea. This is a simple and inescapably obvious fact that has been overlooked or ignored by Manston’s owners ever since it was privatised.

Too few airlines

Infratil has also always made it clear that the passenger element of the passenger/freight mix would be provided by the low-cost no-frills carriers such as Ryanair, easyJet and Flybe. As far as we know, Ryanair has not seriously considered operating out of Manston. Easyjet would presumably have considered Manston before finally choosing Southend airport this summer as the base for its new routes to Europe.

Flybe has run routes from Manston to Manchester, Edinburgh and Belfast. The Manchester flights were scratched earlier this year, and now Flybe has decided to scratch the Edinburgh and Belfast flights. It is worth noting that all three routes showed realistic promise – they are well-populated, have active business centres, and are tourist attractions in their own right.

Too small a catchment area

In all fairness, the timings and frequencies of the flights as scheduled could have been better, but Flybe presented Manston with a reasonable chance to succeed. Manston failed because 75% of its catchment area lies in the North Sea, and fish don’t have much use for planes. As Flybe’s spokesman put it:

It is fair to say that Manston is one of the airports with the smaller catchment areas in the United Kingdom, and you have Gatwick not too far away.

Just six weeks ago, shortly after Flybe’s second profit warning in five months, Flybe’s chairman Jim French declared an end to the boom in domestic air travel and reported a deepening drop in demand, citing a “very, very flat situation across the industry”.

Both Flybe and the airport have referred to the tough economic conditions that have caused Flybe to review its 200 routes, but the brutally simple fact is that it is only the Manston routes that have been cut.

Night flights

Nowhere in any of their press releases do Flybe make any reference to night flights having any bearing on their decision. The Edinburgh and Belfast flights are being scratched because there weren’t enough passengers, despite the active marketing in Scotland and Kent, which Flybe has attributed to the challenging economic environment.

It is worth noting, incidentally, that Flybe operate a number of routes out of George Best Belfast City Airport. They fly to Aberdeen, Benbecula, Birmingham, Bristol, Campbeltown, Cardiff, Dundee, East Midlands, Edinburgh, Exeter, Glasgow International, Guernsey, Inverness, Islay, Isle of Man, Jersey, Kirkwall, Leeds Bradford, London Gatwick, Manchester, Newcastle, Newquay, Norwich, Southampton, Stornoway, Sumburgh, Tiree, and Wick – and that’s just the UK destinations.

George Best Belfast City Airport has no night flights, as flights are banned between 9:30pm and 6:30am. A ban on night flights does not prevent an airport being successful – but an absence of passengers does. Which brings us neatly to Charles Buchanan’s assertion in the recent Gazette article that:

The decision by Flybe reinforces the need for the airport’s proposals for limited and managed scheduled night-time flights to be agreed with Thanet District Council in order to compete with other national and regional airports.

Flybe’s decision does nothing of the sort. Flybe’s decision is simply further evidence that Manston cannot attract and retain passenger airlines for the simple reason that it cannot provide enough passengers.

Manston’s ambition to be a mixed passenger and freight airport can never be realised. Manston is hoping to attract more freight business by being open throughout the night, and thus becoming the only 24-hour freight airport in the south-east. That’s what the night flights are for – they are not for easy access to cheap sunshine holidays, they are for night freight.

Check Also

‘Nightmare Monday’ for rail commuters

13 April 2015 From the section London Hundreds of passengers caught up in knock-on delays …

62 comments

  1. Local businesswoman

    Flybe is a solid operator with a significant UK network, and yet it has failed to make a success out of three Manston routes (despite the whispers on the commercial grapevine that Flybe was given a VERY favourable deal by a desperate Manston, making Flybe's operational costs for these routes minimal). Any business person worth his/her salt will be looking at this latest failure and saying "11 years of private operation and not a single successful passenger route story to tell – I'm not risking my assets trying to operate a passenger airline out of Manston."Which brings us to freight, the ONLY reason that Infratil wants night flights. It can't attract passenger business. It can't attract daytime freight business. It might be able to attract the business nobody else wants – night freight. And if TDC allows Infratil to do that we'll have precious few jobs at the airport and lots of job losses in local tourism. Come on Infratil, where's your Plan B for this fantastic plot of land? Let's forget the airport – it's a busted flush. Come up with a different use that really WILL create jobs and we'll back you. More than that, we can get on with investing locally again once we know you won't be trashing our businesses with night flights.

  2. HEAR HEAR, HEAR HER!hear, all ye good people, hear what this brilliant and eloquent speaker has to say!and in the spirit of Christmas:"God bless us every one!" said Tiny Tim

  3. craig under the flightpath

    Let's build a center parcs on it.

  4. There isn't a plan B. This was pointed out several years ago when the local and regional plans were being developed. However, neither TDC nor the planning inspectors who conducted a public inquiry, took these, sadly prophetic, comments on board. You have to wonder if there is any point submitting comments and objections when none of the people who are paid to produce a credible local plan takes any notice.

  5. Maurice Byford

    Until Infratil come out and start being honest with the people of Thanet there can be no respite for Manston. Night flights are required simply to grow the cargo side of the airport and the cargo side of operations is the only real potential marketplace for Manston. It is the only feasible business plan that makes sense.You would have to be a blithering idiot or a business leader in the Thanet Chamber not to see the reality of the situation! Chuck is treating the people of East Kent as fools, which is why every effort must be maintained to stop him.As it happens I suspect that the fiscal dilemmas of Europe and the crashing sound of the Eurozone will intervene before any under-the-table agreements over night flights are reached. Manston's days are numbered.Maybe if they had been honest from the outset then there may have been some hope for Manston, but not now.

  6. The Edinburgh and Belfast flights are being scratched because there weren't enough passengers, despite the active marketing in Scotland and Kent, which Flybe has attributed to the challenging economic environment. Water under the bridge now but get your facts straight, the loads far exceeded expectations so to say there weren't enough passengers is misleading

  7. Er, have you just contradicted yourself there oh dear?

  8. No. Read the analysis at the top of the page, first bit's a quote taken from that

  9. New owners, new airport manager, new freight airline and now the transport secretary is proposing your friendly local as the future: http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b01g7tqr/South_East_Today_18_04_2012/ Oh Dear!

  10. Hmmmm no new owners, no new freight airline and a load of hot air instigated by Roger Gale. Summary of Oh Dear's posting: liar.

  11. There are two bodies with a vested interest in making Manston a success; the airport itself and roger gale. Sadly, the two major components in actually achieving that – airlines and passengers – are missing.

  12. It's surprising that OD manages to run a kiosk when his grasp of numbers is so poor. In this week's Gazette he engages in some desperate, contorted and irrational exercise to prove that the number of responses to the night-flights consultation was not significant. Let's look at the facts:The referendum for a Parish Council was well-funded and well-publicised. I believe it cost something in the order of 41,000. People didn't have to justify their vote. They simply had to say whether or not they wanted a Parish Council. In total, 6923 votes were received in favour of a Parish Council.The night-flight consultation was conducted on a shoe-string. It wasn't well-publicised. There was no tick-box form to cast your vote. People had to write a formal letter and post it to have their opinion registered. Over 1500 people wrote formal letters of objection.Under the circumstances, I think this was a staggering response and I have absolutely no doubt that a well-funded referendum would produce a massive vote against night-flights. So, Gerry is suggesting that 40,000+ of public money should be spent funding a referendum when we know what the outcome should be? Do me a favour and get back in your box.

  13. Trolling

  14. Infratil at Manston know they bought a cheap airfield with woeful infrastructure. The only hope they have of making Manston a success is their power to lobby the public purse strings for more infrastructure. For a lot us against night flights, the issue of any possibility of public money earmarked for this ugly company proposing anti social night flights is deeply worrying.Any idea of that company as some sort of benevolent employer is dreamy. Multinational Business cares about profit and little else, least of all about the back yard that is inconveniently at the end of its runway. Pro night flight rhetoric has been more or less spiteful to the objectors – "nimby" – "you're not from round here" – "you're middle class" etc. The logic of these sorts of arguments are not tenable in any democratic argument.The incompetence of the Infratil management, is symptomatic of their ability to make a success of Manston, is woefully demonstrated by their underestimation of the outcome of the consultation. Their attempts to undermine its validity sounds like sour grapes to most logical local people I've discussed it with.The whole debacle of the night flights proposal has blinkered TDC and KCC into hoping that a private operator can make a sustainable success of Manston. The same sort of thinking is displayed on the board by some who are are more offended by the probable truth posted here all to often that the airport is geographically challenged anyway. This shows me just how skewed the whole situation is that common sense is forgotten and a mission to save Manston from an inevitable drop in status from 'international' airport to empty airfield. The airport is a money sucking plug hole. It's time to get our politicians to make the hard decisions for the interests of the wider economy.

  15. Vast amounts of public money have been wasted in this area on the back of grandiose schemes which have come to nothing. The harbour access road, completed shortly before the ferry companies pulled out; the astronomical sums spent on Sandwich road, shortly before Pfizer pulled out. The dual carriageway from Cliffsend to Minster, completed shortly before the airfield closed. Let's not forget the Turner Centre, which continues to swallow millions in public subsidies and the Westwood shopping mall which destroyed our town centres and the associated roads which are eating into our meagre leisure facilities.It isn't that money hasn't been spent in Thanet. Huge sums of money have been spent but they've been spent in the wrong places. Those who took the decisions to spend this money aren't accountable for their mistakes and so, they feel free to repeat them. We need investment but we need investment in the things which are working; not things that Councillors wish would work. What difference could have been made if the hundreds of millions which have already been wasted had been spent on supporting small successful businesses, helping them to expand and reinvesting the taxes raised into better sports and leisure facilities.

  16. Must be getting close to meeting time judging by the desperation being displayed here

  17. If I am "Gerry" you obviously must know where my business is so why don't you pop around for a friendly chat? I think the real Gerry might be somewhat surprised though

  18. What as 'desperate' as infratils attempt to rewrite the results of the consultation! You really need to brush up on your debating skills my dear! ROFL

  19. "Vast amounts of public money have been wasted in this area on the back of grandiose schemes which have come to nothing." etc.Thank you Igloo. Each of these examples could be chapter headings in a case book illustrating how not to waste public money and invest for real growth tailored to the uniqueness of our location. Imposing mindless national models has just lead to disaster here, each scheme further damaging the resources that should be nurtured not nihilated.We must form a small minority of people who understand this on the Isle of Fuckwits in the growbag of Kent/s.

  20. I meant local authority annihilating the particular and intrinsic qualities extant in Thanet.

  21. An interested viewer

    No sign of a white knight buying the failing airport, nor have I been deafened by an onslaught of new operators. Coupled with the desperate attempts by Charlie Boy to get his message on the council agenda by whatever rules he breaks, I think we are witnessing a desperate fight for survival.

  22. Don't be so foolish. Oh Dear has told us that a new freight operator is to be announced. He can't tell us when but he expects us to believe him. However, as each days passes with no hint of an announcement, the gullible fools who thought he knew something, begin to realise that they've been conned. There is no new freight operator and no airline is likely to relocate to Manston without knowing who will own and run the airfield after Infratil make their escape. The fact that they can't put together a management buyout tells you all you need to know.

  23. Actually lady you know very little obviously. All the clues are there for those who are prepared to pull their head out of the sand and take a good look around. I would start in the East first. I expect a progress report in due course once your rose tinted specs start to clear.

  24. In due course….. some day soon……maybe tomorrow……anytime…….in the near future…..It's funny, but in the weird world of Oh Dear and chums, tomorrow never comes. Get back to doing what you're good at; selling ice-cream and stop posting lies on bulletin boards.

  25. An interested viewer

    Complete and utter bollocks.

  26. You've been reading Igloo's posts again haven't you?

  27. Local business woman

    Interestingly, I'm hearing two very different figures being discussed in the market as the sale price for Manston. One is way over the (already discounted for poor performance) book value, and one is noticeably less than the price Infratil paid when they bought it. Is anyone else hearing anything?

  28. Nothing at all. It's as quiet as a grave, as yet another week elapses without Oh Dear's predictions coming to fruition.

  29. Manstons greatest fan

    Seeing as airlines only want Heathrow, ignoring spare capacity at Stansted,Seeing as most cargo is carried in the belly of passenger aircraft,Seeing as cargo infrastructure is centred around west London in the south east region,Seeing as Manston does not get mentioned yet 3rd runway at Heathrow/Boris island does,Seeing as over a decade of operation has created no additional jobs over the bare minimum requirements and a trail of bust airlines and travel businesses,Seeing as Stansted will be up for sale,Seeing as the next large investment in high speed rail will be to send it north,Seeing as Thanet is a deprived area so the 120,000 people who live here can't sustain an airport,Seeing as Gatwick is just up the road,I worry for Manston's future as an airport.

  30. What you are suggesting is that everybody in authority ignored the facts. The MP's, the district councillors, the county councillors…. They all ignored the evidence presented to them and ploughed ahead with supporting an airport which had no realistic propect of producing the gains which were promised. Now, at the point when it is obvious that we have had over ten wasted years, nobody in authority is stepping forward to be acountable for the decisions they made. Well, what a surprise (not).

  31. I see that this site has turned from No night flights into No Manston. Unfortunately the old gal just won't roll over and die will she, no matter how many knives you stick in her? Just look at the post count here, even the diehards have deserted you because they've come to realise that your mission is a pointless waste of time. Anyway, won't be long now before she's given a injection and she'll be up and running bigger and noisier than ever. Have fun

  32. The old gal may not be dead yet but the stench is pretty awful. "won't be long now.." Maybe tomorrow, maybe the day after, maybe never.

  33. The bit of annoyance that you feel every time I stop by is nothing compared to what's coming – I expect you may come apart at the seams

  34. Do us a favour. The airport leaks like a seive and they have to rush out any big announcements before the paper publishes them. You are just an ice-cream salesman, yet you already claim to have inside-knowledge of a huge deal which is to be kept secret for an indeterminate length of time. It doesn't really stack up, does it? If there really were a big announcement, it would be public knowledge by now. You certainly wouldn't be on the list of people who need to know. I'm afraid that what's happened here is that somebody has been pulling your chain and, like the silly-billy you are, you've jumped to their tune. They even have a nickname for you up at HQ.

  35. Not half as leaky as you are lady I discovered all I needed to know about you within about 10 minutes. By the way the name they have for me up at HQ is far nicer than the one they have for you I can assure you. And how long are you going to maintain this idiotic notion that I am some sort of ice cream man which I'm not, I could be several people. Oh Dear, Oh Dear, Oh Dear!

  36. It was you who claimed you sold ice-creams. It's all on the print-outs. And as another day goes by with no announcements a few more people conclude that you are nothing other than a lying internet troll who makes things up just to irritate people.

  37. Wrong again, I suggest you look back through the print outs again. I was just playing along with the speculation by those who used to post here but have long since given up, that I am some geezer called Gerry who owns a ice cream stand. Stop being so impatient, buying any business takes time and even longer when there's several queueing up to splash the cash. Unfortunately for you your noisy neighbour isn't about to get out of town and leave you with a levelled playing field, soon she'll be up and running bigger and busier than ever.

  38. Print-outs have been checked and I can confirm that you are the only person who ever mentioned selling ice-cream. A little slip-up on your part. I'm surprised you have the nerve to keep posting when your predictions about a big development have come to nothing. If I were caught lying I would curl up in a dark corner. I guess you are a different breed.

  39. As I said before if I'm Gerry the ice cream salesman then feel free to pop over/in for a chat at my kiosk/van/bike or whatever it is I'm supposed to serve up the Mr Whippy's from. I'm sure one of the rapidly vanishing regulars on here can tell you where he/I am/is supposed to operate from. I shall now leave you to your diminishing fan base but will be back just before the big announcement. I trust that without me you and your other pseudonyms will continue to talk to one another? . . .

  40. Another day and week goes by with no big announcement and Oh Dear is exposed as a lying troll.

  41. An avid airport supporter

    Things don't look good, do they

  42. I suspect you are probably a spreader of disinformation but if you are a genuine supporter, then quite the contrary, things are looking very rosy indeed

  43. "I shall now leave you to your diminishing fan base but will be back just before the big announcement."Either "the big announcement" is due or you're lying again. If I had to bet it would be the latter.

  44. 5.2.1 The Section 106 Agreement made between Thanet District Council and Manston Airportdo not require Thanet District Council to approve/disprove or give consent for / refuseauthorisation to the proposed Night time Flying Policy.Oh Dear

  45. 5.2.1 The Section 106 Agreement made between Thanet District Council and Manston Airportdo not require Thanet District Council to approve/disprove or give consent for / refuseauthorisation to the proposed Night time Flying Policy.Oh Dear

  46. @OH DEAREver heard of the peasants revolt? I have news for you, people stopped rolling over and taking it in 1381. They sure ain't going to start now!Just because somebody thinks that they can do whatever they like, when in fact THEY are the minority, does not mean that it will be allowed to happen.

  47. "I shall now leave you to your diminishing fan base but will be back just before the big announcement."Yet another week goes by without any sign of Oh Dear's big announcement. Unfortunately, Oh Dear can't be true to his word and leave us alone. Get lost OD. We're all fed up with your lies.

  48. I repeat for those who missed this because this site likes to suppress the truth:"5.2 Legal5.2.1 The Section 106 Agreement made between Thanet District Council and Manston Airportdo not require Thanet District Council to approve/disprove or give consent for / refuseauthorisation to the proposed Night time Flying Policy."Oh Dear!

  49. "I repeat for those who missed this because this site likes to suppress the truth:"Well more a point of relativism we @ NNF tend to think. It must be quite annoying for you to see people exercise their right to object. People power in our case has raised the argument that the pro night time flying policy is bunk… so it's back to square one with your snide remarks that probably do your cause for the success of Manston more harm than good. Keep up the bad work lol!

  50. No just letting your dwindling band know what this site is trying to keep hidden from them. The battle in your eyes may be won but the war is about to kick off

  51. It's just occurred to me that you really don't know do you? You're so closeted and remote from real life that the old drums obviously haven't beaten a path to your door. Christ, keep up down there there's a story to tell or maybe it's that you're just too frightened to post it?????

  52. You said you were leaving but would return when "the big announcement" was due. Well tell us then. Is the big announcement due or was it all one big fat lie ?

  53. James? Who exactly is in the "minority"? I'm assuming you think you are the "majority" because of the flawed survey? Had the council carried out the survey in a fair and proper manner by canvassing the WHOLE of Thanet with a reputable market research company we all know the results would have been vastly different.In any case It was all a bit of a waste of time as TDC doesn't have the power to stop Manston operating at night anyway

  54. @OH DEARSo if an open air concert venue requests a planning application, do you really think it's fair to get Bob and Carol's view on the matter, even though they live 15 miles away in another town? The focus point with a consultation should be with those who are going to have to live with the 100 db noise nuisance throughout the night. In this case it's people living under the direct flight path and they have opposed in their droves.Before the record resets with "you moved their yada yada yada". Manston has 17 unopposed hours of each and every day to roll planes down its runway, Instead we have tumble weeds!.

  55. I'm not talking about 15 miles away but those who pay their council tax to TDC. Every one of them should have been canvassed. Clive Hart, said: Our public consultation clearly demonstrated that a large number of residents were against the introduction of night-time flying. Having considered the views of local people etc etc. . ." It wasn't a "public consultation;" and "a large number" weren't, a minority were and the views of only a small hand full were considered. Like most Labour led council's it couldn't organise a piss up in a brewery.And what's this 100dB noise nuisance that's going to be happening throughout the night. Go check your facts before you start spouting nonsense.

  56. They recently built a 5 storey block of flats along my road, ONLY those directly around the new proposal were give the opportunity to object. Why should somebody from another town or area be given the right to participate in something that would have little effect either way on their own lives? If every proposal worked this way then misery could be imposed from all over the place.Yes 100db was being a little conservative given all the concrete and building sound reflection and so on in the town centre. I bet there are many pockets in the area that reach much higher given that an average 747 can generate 140db.Anyway if Manston can do what it likes, where are all the planes flying over at night?

  57. Things are not going Oh Dear's way. First he was caught out lying about a "big announcement." Then he told everybody that he wouldn't post anything until the big announcement. That turned out to be another big fat lie. Then he found out that night-flights weren't going to be allowed and that he's lost the argument. With his track record I wouldn't be surprised to find he was one of the goons who lost his shirt buyng Wiggins' shares. What a mug. The key thing you have to ask is why he is so vehemently in favour of night-flights. In my experience people who get so wound up about an issue usually have some vested financial interest in the outcome.

  58. An avid airport supporter

    "….the value of Kent and Prestwick airports have been impaired by NZ$ 26,000,000 since march 2011"Or "Infratil airports Europe discontinued operation following decision for market sale".Are these the the big announcements made by Infratil today?

  59. slipway bobs mate

    So Oh Dears back with no announcement, but then again he/she is the spivs mate?

  60. See what I do for you, I pop back up and throw a few spanners in your faltering works and hey presto all the boys come out to play again (with the exception of Igloo of course).James, it's called democracy mate.Ah and welcome back the Medusa of this thing, the multi pseudonymous Igloo. Lies eh? I shall enjoy rubbing salt in your wound but sadly will have to wait until the i has been dotted and the t crossed. Takes time you know, Manston wasn't sold in a day but with the financial clout of what's coming it could probably be totally rebuilt in one.And then there's Avid? No is the answer. And Slipway????Cheer up chaps, it's not all doom and gloom at least you'll have each other

  61. "James, it's called democracy mate."No. Democracy is when the people of Ramsgate decide they don't want night-flights and the Council acts in accordance with the people's wishes. I know you and your Tory mates don't like it but, frankly, who cares? So, now your telling us that the i's haven't been dotted and the t's haven't been crossed on the "big announcement? In my experience dotting the i's and crossing the t's doesn't take too long. It's been over six weeks since you started banging on about a big announcement. Either there isn't one, or the problems are a lot bigger than you are admitting to. Either way, you're a liar.

  62. The nice Council that acts in accordance with the people's wishes by telling everybody it opposes night flights but then tells 'em that's there's bugg+r all we can do about it anyway. A company that generates 10bn of revenue didn't achieve it by not being careful. Stop being so impatient, you'll find out soon enough.