Blackpool Airport Closes its Doors

UK leisure carrier Jet2.com, the largest operator at Blackpool Airport, has already revealed it will move its entire operation to Manchester Airport from October 10, 2014, while Aer Lingus Regional and Citywing will maintain services to Dublin, Belfast City and the Isle of Man until the closure of the airport on October 15, 2014.

Commercial flights will cease at Blackpool Airport with effect from October 16, 2014 after the airport’s owner was unable to find a buyer for the loss-making facility.  Regional and City Airport Management (RCAM), part of Patriot Aerospace Group, said that it had been left with “no option” but to close the airport, which has more than 100 years of aviation history.

In a statement it said: “We regret to announce that no agreement has been reached to secure the future of operations at Blackpool Airport. The airport operation has been making a loss for a number of years and unfortunately there is no option for the company other than to close.”

The future ownership of the airport has been under question for some time but this final conclusion was only revealed earlier this month when RCAM revealed that if no agreement could be reached before October 7, 2014 which ensured the viability of its operations, then airport operations will close.

The sales process, announced at the end of August, was a final attempt to secure the future of the airport, but the airport's management had spent many months prior to this announcement approaching organisations with a potential interest in the airport in an attempt to find a buyer.

Work is currently underway with the independent aviation businesses and tenants at the airport to understand if their operations can continue in the future. While, working in partnership with the local authorities, regeneration plans are also being developed which will be designed to create future employment and sustainable economic development opportunities for Blackpool and the Fylde Coast.

“This is a very sad day for the airport which has a proud aviation history and a loyal, appreciative customer following,” a company executive told The HUB. “We will endeavour to maintain operations as normal until October 15, 2014, after which time commercial flights will cease.”

UK leisure carrier Jet2.com, the largest operator at Blackpool Airport, has already revealed it will move its entire operation to Manchester Airport from October 10, 2014 with flights operating between now and October 25, 2014 to a schedule 90 minutes later than that currently offered from Blackpool. From October 26, 2014 these will return to the current Blackpool schedule but will terminate from January 7, 2015.

“The considerable uncertainty in recent weeks over its future has already led to the withdrawal of key third party facilities, without notice, that have seriously impacted on the operation of our aircraft from and to Blackpool Airport,” said Jet2.com in a statement.

Irish carrier Stobart Air also currently offers flights for Aer Lingus Regional between Blackpool and Dublin, while Citywing links Blackpool to both Belfast City and the Isle of Man. These services are currently scheduled to continue operating until the closure of the airport on October 15, 2014.

Citywing believes there remains a small chance it can continue operations from Blackpool and will take a role in the discussions over the future of the site.  It confirms its will "temporarily suspend" flights from the airport for a period of four weeks.  The local council and many local businesses are now actively seeking a way to ensure Blackpool Airport will re-open with a sustainable new business model and Citywing will be part of those discussions.

"Unfortunately, our discussions with a nearby airport to provide temporary facilities while Blackpool Airport’s issues are resolved proved unworkable. In order to minimise disruption to our passengers, we have reluctantly decided to suspend flights to Blackpool for a period of four weeks," confirmed David Buck, managing director, Citywing.  "It is in the interests of the communities of both Blackpool and the Isle of Man that services are resumed as soon as possible to bring back this lifeline air-link."

Blackpool Airport was ideally located to serve the needs of Lancashire, Cumbria, the Lake District and wider North West region and had seen seasonal flights to more than 20 European destinations, particularly offering a local departure point to many popular leisure and holiday destinations for residents in its catchment. The town of Blackpool is also one of the UK's most popular tourist destinations as well as being a leading conference and exhibition centre attracting millions of visitors each year.

The airport was one of the first aviation sites in the UK with roots dating back to 1909 when flying first commenced at the then Squires Gate airfield. That year the site hosted Britain's first official major air show, officially recognised by the Royal Aero Club when more than 200,000 spectators gathered to watch pilots in their early flying machines give breathtaking displays.

The closure of Blackpool Airport follows the closure of Manston Airport earlier this year and other facilities across the country could also follow. Although there remain calls for Manston Airport to re-open to aircraft traffic the site has been recently sold to regeneration specialists who plan to develop it for manufacturing, housing and schools.

In our analysis, below, we look at passenger demand from Blackpool Airport using official UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) data. This clearly shows the positive impact the arrival of Jet2.com had at the airport when it launched flights in 2005 but also the negative impact the introduction of a controversial £10 Airport Development Fee was introduced at the start of 2009.