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Manston’s job forecasts

Optimism or Deceit?

Bless ’em, they’ve got to spin the best yarn they can to persuade TDC to play ball over night flights, so Manston commissioned York Aviation to spin it for them. Cruelly dubbed by some as “the porkies from the Yorkies”, the report from the independent aviation consultants has plucked some enticingly large numbers out of thin air.

They state, with what is intended as reassuring confidence, that by 2018 Manston will have created 2,070 direct jobs by handling 2,286,000 passengers a year – that’s 1,104 jobs per million passengers. Let’s see how that stacks up against reality:

Two things stand out on this graph:

  1. The Manston figure is far higher than any other. The lowest of all is the inventor of the absurdly low cost flying cattle truck, Ryanair (106, less than a tenth of Manston’s figure). By their own admission, Ryanair have pushed the low cost (and therefore low employment) model about as far as it can go.
  2. Where we have enough points for a trend, it is definitely downwards. The increased competition from the ever-increasing number of airlines, the growth of the low cost model, and the squeeze of rising fuel costs have all resulted in falling staff levels at airlines.

The comparison with other airports is even more enlightening, and the same two features grab the attention:

  1. Manston’s figure is higher than any other this century, and is more than four times higher than its sister airport at Prestwick.
  2. Again, the trend is overwhelmingly downwards. The relentless growth of the low cost model brings with it lower staffing at the airports it uses. Manston’s strategy, as laid out in the Master Plan, is based on attracting passengers using low fare carriers “such as Ryanair, easyjet or bmibaby”.

Is Manston really so committed to regenerating East Kent that they will charitably over-employ? Are Kentish workers really so much lazier than anywhere else in the UK? Are Infratil’s shareholders thrilled at the prospect of Manston promising to become the least efficient airport in Britain?

Enough of the rhetorical questions, already! Manston’s job forecasts have gone far beyond optimism, and beyond exaggeration. These numbers are wild extrapolations from an absurdly bullish, and frankly unachievable, Master Plan. Manston’s hope is that TDC will fall for it, and permit night flights.

Manston is currently unsellable (as a commercial passenger airport) because nobody has managed to make a go of it. Its a non-runner. Getting the go-ahead for night flights MAY be enough to persuade someone with a different, i.e. non-passenger, business model that it could work for them. Infratil promise their investors a 20% return. The Manston site cost them £10.3m in 2005 and has lost millions a year ever since. Their investors won’t have the patience for Manston to start breaking even, let alone wait for it to start delivering a 20% return.

Intfratil’s best option is to make the airport sellable, by giving it a unique selling point – 24 hour flights – and sell as soon as possible for as much as possible, thus crystallising their losses and freeing up cash to invest elsewhere.

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  1. joan goddard

    Congratulations to NNF on a very well presented argument. For further information…. in 2010 a paper was published by Heathrow concerning jobs at the airport. This paper accepted that the jobs trend per 1000 passengers was downwards. Productivity had gone up consistently and accordingly jobs had gone down year on year since the 1990's. Heathrow is our only hub airport and significant in world aviation terms. How can Manston be bucking the norm and producing higher levels of projected employment than a world class operation ? Aviation technology, major cost cutting and cheaper options for passengers was given for the downwards trend in Heathrow jobs. The article also showed that Heathrow owner/operators have major input to local education thus ensuring that local staff are more easily available for Heathrow jobs. Does anyone actually believe that Infratil will be investing in Thanet's education requirements for the future of the airport? What makes me particulary angry is the fact that the media continue to publish the utter rubbish presented to them by Infratil, KCC and TDC. Why don't they act like professionals and do their homework first? Furthermore, it is disgusting that false hope is continuously being offered to desperate people by habitual liars like Charles Buchanan and now someone has paid York Aviation considerable monies to peddle yet more of the same.Unfortunately, Manston cannot deliver in normal airport terms. History alone shows us that. Infratil are therefore pushing for their final option, an edge that would make us different from other airports -Night Flights! Dare I say…… that the people of Thanet, and their wellbeing, would appear to be expendable in the name of capital gain, commercial greed and a Master Plan!

  2. I've only recently read up on the facts of this proposal and the case for night flights looks pretty weak. It's alarming that there is a possibility that the airport will be able to fly freight (which has to land low over houses because of the payloads) at night. A 24 hour freight operation would be a mistake and unlikely to create a decent employment prospect for Thanet as a whole.I find it encouraging that there is a strong local group challenging the corporate culture that KCC so often kneels down to.Keep shining the light on these fat cats guys! Thanks for keeping the guard up on what could really mess up Ramsgate and Herne Bay area indefinitely!