I’ve never met David Foley, but I assume in my usual good-natured way that he is a decent guy. I have been interviewed with him on BBC Radio Kent, when he rather irritatingly talked across me, but that’s hardly a hanging offence.
A quick search on the Internet reveals that Mr Foley is active in a number of local organisations ranging from the National War Memorial to the Royal Society of Arts, which is commendable – community involvement is “a good thing”.
Flybe has been a very good user at Manston and has brought in a new dimension but it is not the only airline in the world. If we can get an international carrier in then that will dwarf the few domestic flights Flybe operated.
It is of course true that Flybe is not the only airline in the world, but it is one of the few that has been persuaded to use Manston airport. It has also stopped using Manston airport due to lack of passengers. If an international carrier could be “got”, then it probably would have happened by now. I think it’s a pretty safe bet that ever since Infratil bought Manston, they will have been trying their utmost to do just that.
The airport says it will deliver 3,000 jobs by 2018.
Absolutely true, Mr Foley. Manston’s business plan makes the prediction that in the year 2018 the airport will employee 3000 people to handle 3 million passengers – a thousand jobs per million passengers. This is about four times the ratios that we see in comparable airports across the UK. For example, Glasgow Prestwick airport (which is owned by the same company that owns Manston) employs 250 people per million passengers. Infratil’s sales pitch is that they will willingly over-staff Manston airport by 400%. And Mr Foley believes it.
Infratil is a very different company from EUjet. It has deeper pockets. It has pumped around £40m into Manston. It has been a benign investor in the best sense of the word. It is in the best position to plan its future strategy.
Infratil is an infrastructure investment company which promises its shareholders a 20% return on investment. There is nothing “benign” about Infratil’s behaviour in any of its business dealings – its success in New Zealand, Australia and the Pacific is a result of hardheaded commercial decisions. Infratil is currently thinking of selling Prestwick airport (it’s only other European airport) because of its poor performance. Prestwick’s performance far outstrips Manston’s performance, which doesn’t bode well for Manston’s future.
Inward investors with £40 million to spend on improving our infrastructure are in short supply. We must cherish Infratil and remind the doubters that Manston Airport has been in operation since 1915.
The £40 million the Infratil has poured in Manston, to the dismay of some of its investors, has not improved our infrastructure. This money has effectively disappeared, to cover the costs of the loss-making airport. We can cherish Infratil much as we like, but that will have no influence on what looks like an increasingly inevitable business decision to leave Manston.
I am continually surprised that people refer to Manston’s venerable history as a military airport as if it has any bearing on the current situation. Instead, attention should focus on the airport’s performance since 1999 when it passed into private hands. It has made a loss ever since.
David Foley is Chief Executive of Thanet and East Kent Chamber Ltd which is often referred to as a Chamber of Commerce. I don’t know if it’s standard practice to set up a Chamber of Commerce as a limited company, but Thanet and East Kent Chamber Ltd doesn’t feature anywhere on the website of the British Chambers of Commerce. BCC is the national body for a Network of Accredited Chambers of Commerce across the UK.
It is David Foley’s role in Thanet and East Kent Chamber Ltd that makes him the “go to guy” for the local press when it comes to local business issues. Having looked at their website I am none the wiser as to how many local businesses have paid for membership of Mr Foley’s enterprise, or what kind of companies they might be. It seems likely that Manston airport has paid for membership.
I’ll be pleased to hear from anyone who is a member of the Thanet and East Kent Chamber, particularly those in the tourism and hospitality industries. I’m also curious to know when and how Mr Foley canvassed the opinions of his members regarding night flights.