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Charles Buchanan, chief executive, Kent International Airport, Manston

The economics of the marketplace are impartial and unforgiving, grimly scything down any business models that are weak, lame or faltering.

Plenty of people want to go to Manchester, and plenty of people want to come to East Kent. Evidently, not enough people want to travel between the two. So the Manchester route failed. Within a year, we'll find out how many people want to travel between East Kent and Belfast.

Nothing to smile about

Charles Buchanan, chief executive, Kent International Airport, Manston

The economics of the marketplace are impartial and unforgiving, grimly scything down any business models that are weak, lame or faltering.

Plenty of people want to go to Manchester, and plenty of people want to come to East Kent. Evidently, not enough people want to travel between the two. So the Manchester route failed. Within a year, we’ll find out how many people want to travel between East Kent and Belfast.

M’learned friends tell me that under current employment law, a 90 day consultation period is compulsory if more than 99 people might be made redundant. This rule is (pointlessly) applied even when there are no viable alternatives to redundancy to be consulting about. So if, for example, a factory was closing because it was going broke, the 90 day rule would apply despite the fact that the factory owner had nothing but redundancy to offer.

Airport owners Infratil told their shareholders a couple of weeks ago (on March 8th 2011) that they would be concentrating on the Australia/New Zealand energy and transport sectors, and were undecided about the fate of their European airport investments.

• Focus is on capital allocation, NZ energy markets and positioning of Greenstone Energy and TrustPower • Capital allocation priorities are under constant review • Portfolio rebalancing is not complete • Still monitoring public transport and European airport sectors • Origination activity is largely focused on energy and transport opportunities in Australia and NZ • Infratil’s priorities: energy and transport sectors in Australia and New Zealand – control or influential stakes in unlisted assets in sectors we understand well


Job uncertainty at Manston Airport

Jobs could be lost at Kent International Airport after it launched a widescale review of all staff. Charles Buchanan, chief executive of Infratil, the company which owns Manston airport, said it was reviewing “working patterns and conditions of all staff”. The consultation will last for at least 90 days. Mr Buchanan said:

“We have more than 100 employees at Manston, many of whom have been with us for years and joined when the airport was under different ownership. We are now in a situation where some of the working arrangements we have in place do not match the current activity of the business. This is something we must rectify to ensure the airport has a sustainable future and that we match our resources to the needs of our customers.”

Mr Buchanan said Infratil was not planning to “identify significant redundancies”. But he added:

“At this stage, I cannot guarantee that there won’t be some job losses. We are also reviewing all our external contracts to consider which of these could be performed more effectively in-house, possibly creating new positions at the airport. As the consultation will last a minimum of three months it is impossible to say what the outcome will be.”

The news comes just days after budget airline Flybe announced it was scrapping its Manston-Manchester route and replacing it with flights to Belfast. More than 28,000 people travelled through the airport in the 10 months to the end of January compared to just 4,200 a year before, as a result of the new scheduled services to Edinburgh and Manchester. However, the amount of freight handled by the airport fell to 1,800 tonnes in January, down by almost a third on the previous year.

The airport terminal building was recently refurbished and is capable of handling up to 700,000 passengers every year. Infratil recently announced that passenger numbers at another of its airports, Glasgow Prestwick, fell by 40% in January compared to the year before. The company has a strong presence in New Zealand, where it owns Wellington Airport and the NZ Bus operation.

Martin Jefferies kentonline 23rd Mar 2011

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  1. How much, time, energy and public money has KCC and TDC wasted on trying to give a leg-up to a faltering business? KCC is still banging on about wasting more money on the Parkway station which is completely superfluous. If they want an hour long journey from London then build the station at Canterbury! The local authorities must stop dickering about wasting tax payers money on egocentric, self-interest projects and focus on keeping their communities, housed, healthy and educated. How many elderly and sick are now suffering through cut backs to their services, and others? Fiddling whilst Rome burns! Kent's and Thunt's.