The UK’s regional airports have been picking up the accolades recently, proving that as far as air travel is concerned small is definitely beautiful.
The support of more than 3,500 motorists in Leeds has helped secure the future of a car park previously deemed ‘illegal’ by city councillors.
Sentinel Airport Parking, located in Yeadon, was found to be in breach of planning regulations in September 2010, a discovery that could have resulted in the closure of the car park in as little as five years. However, as of May 2011, a local planning inspectorate has granted the facility’s owner, Austin Hayes, Ltd., a licence to continue operating the Warren House Lane site.
As part of an ongoing expansion in the North of England, budget carrier, Jet2, is to create an extra 145 summer jobs at its largest hub, Leeds Bradford Airport. The jobs, which include a range of different positions, from flight attendants to baggage handlers, will appear in local newspapers during 2011.
Holidays 4U is to begin offering holidays from Leeds Bradford Airport to Dalaman and Bodrum in its native Turkey.
Despite having one of the least original names in world travel, Holidays 4U has been around longer than most travel firms, providing “surprisingly cheap” holidays to UK travellers from its main base in Brighton.
UK-wide expansion of its winter programme continued at Leeds-Bradford Airport earlier this week, as the budget carrier moved to open a new base at the West Yorkshire hub, adding a new route to Geneva, Switzerland.
The number of people flying out of Leeds Bradford Airport increased to 352,175 in July 2010, according to the CAA (Civil Aviation Authority), an 11% increase in traffic compared to the same month last year.
Leeds is the largest airport in the Yorkshire area, ahead of Robin Hood in Doncaster and Humberside on the east coast of England. The Yeadon hub regularly attracts in excess of 2.5m passengers per year, compared to 890,000 at Doncaster and a paltry 390,000 at Humberside Airport.
Bosses claim that Leeds’ soaring passenger numbers can be attributed to a series of new routes from budget airlines Thomson and Jet2, rising demand for Flybe’s domestic routes and a new Ryanair base that opened at Leeds in March 2010. The airport is also pursuing a £28m re-jig of its terminal in a bid to attract extra passengers in the future.
Tony Hallwood, commercial director at Leeds Bradford, claims that the Yorkshire airport is “bucking the national trend” by gaining new passengers and can “look forward to 2011 with confidence”. Tony also mentioned on-going expansion by resident airlines, enabling Leeds to offer flights to 76 destinations.
Jet2, which has called Leeds home since 2003, will add a route from Leeds to Madeira, an island owned by Portugal, in 2011.
Flights to Bodrum in Turkey and New York in North America will grace Jet2’s schedules later this year, helping chilly Brits get some sun in the colder months or, in the case of New York, enjoy shopping in one of the biggest cities in the world.
Despite promising figures for Leeds, a second report by the CAA discovered that aircraft punctuality at ten UK airports had fallen to 78% between April and June 2010, a 4% slump on last year’s figures.
Gatwick, the second largest airport in the UK, suffered a miserable 10% drop in punctuality, with local rival Luton reporting a 9% decline in timely planes.
The future of a popular car park near Leeds Bradford Airport is looking increasingly bleak this week, after a local council discovered that the owner of the site, Austin Hayes, Ltd., had been operating the Yeadon facility without planning permission.
Opened in 1999, Sentinel Car Park is used by hundreds of thousands of passengers every year, many of whom are travellers flying from Leeds Bradford Airport.
Austin Hayes has since applied for planning permission for the car park, but disgruntled councillors are already recommending that it be closed. The site is a ‘key employment area,’ according to city officials, due to its proximity to the airport and Leeds centre, and should be commandeered for new projects.
Leeds Bradford currently operates a shuttle bus between the terminal and the car park, emphasising its importance in generating business for the Yorkshire hub.
A report into the illegal Sentinel facility noted that there was a ‘possibility’ that the car park could have become lawful through the passage of time; UK law dictates that structures older than 10 years old, if not being used as a dwelling, should be allowed to stand except in unusual circumstances.
However, the facility will still need to acquire a certificate proving its legality, which could be difficult if city councillors rally against Austin Hayes.
Unfortunately, Leeds Bradford Airport has also spoken out against the Yeadon car park, ostensibly to drive traffic to its own parking facilities. The hub claims that it has enough parking spaces for all of its customers, but the on-going popularity of the Sentinel site suggests that the airport’s on-site car parks are not as attractive to flyers as bosses might think.
Councillors have indicated that immediate closure of the car park is unlikely, and an investigation into the facility would likely result in a temporary planning licence, lasting between 5 and 10 years.
Transport secretary Philip Hammond has told MPs at the transport select committee that the proposed high-speed rail service between Leeds and London could herald the eventual demise of domestic and short-haul flights from airports such as Leeds Bradford International.
He went on to say that this is the reason he supports the high-speed rail link between London and the North and that eventually he would like to see it extended to the Channel Tunnel.
According to Mr Hammond this switch in mode of transport would have a “transformational” effect on the country’s economy.
However, the commercial director of Leeds Bradford International, Tony Hallwood, disagrees. He is confident that domestic and short-haul flights will still be in huge demand despite a high-speed rail service. For a start, many of the destinations served by Leeds Bradford such as Scotland, Cornwall, the south coast and the Irish Republic are nowhere near the areas served by the rail link. There is also plenty of evidence for the fact that many travellers from the North to places such as Amsterdam do not want to go through London.
Mr Hallwood stated that Mr Hammond’s assertions did nothing to change Leeds Bradford’s aims of increasing passenger numbers, flights and choice of airlines and the strategy for the future remained unchanged.
The Government’s preference for a route which would go from London to Birmingham, Manchester and then across the Pennines to Leeds has been the subject of much criticism and experts have predicted that journey times would not be sufficiently short to boost West Yorkshire’s economy.
The Department for Transport is looking into the possibility of a Y-shaped route, branching off at Birmingham, with one line going to Manchester and the other to Leeds.
Routes to the Canary Islands will not benefit from a reduction in baggage fees after September 1, unlike every other route hosted by budget carrier, Ryanair.
At present, travellers departing from Leeds for the Canary Islands can expect to be charged €20 and €30 for small and large bags, respectively. However, baggage fees usually drop back to their winter levels after the summer season, an average of €5 less than at peak times.
The levy only applies to customers who choose to carry extra checked-in luggage, instead of taking advantage of Ryanair’s free 10kg carry-on allowance, but this is likely to include families and groups of friends holidaying abroad.
Ryanair claims that the added baggage fee on flights to the Canary Islands is to encourage people to travel light, but it appears much more likely that the budget carrier is attempting to cash in on the high volume of traffic that travels to the Canaries as part of ‘winter sun’ deals.
Stephen McNamara, Ryanair’s head of communications, claims that only 30% of passengers will be affected by the baggage fees, as the majority choose to travel with just a carry-on bag.
Ryanair’s luggage levy has prompted a boom in the number of people travelling with the airline, according to Stephen, whilst simultaneously reducing the number of bags that need to be carried.
The last two winters have been cold and snowy in the UK, and British summers have never been the stuff of legends, so sun and sea holidays are becoming popular all-year round. The Canary Islands in particular are accessible from a number of large airports, including Leeds Bradford.
Leeds currently offers four Ryanair routes to Canarian destinations, namely, Lanzarote, Fuerteventura, Tenerife and Gran Canaria.
Budget airline, Ryanair, has added routes from Leeds-Bradford Airport to four destinations on the continent – Barcelona in Spain, Dusseldorf in Germany, the Canary Island of Fuerteventura, and Gdansk in Poland. The airline hopes that the new flights will sustain 1,000 jobs in West Yorkshire.
At the end of June, Ryanair’s outspoken CEO, Michael O’Leary, was vocal in his praise for Leeds-Bradford, after the airport cut its landing fees and passenger taxes. The Irishman claimed that Leeds was following the example set by airports in Holland, Spain, and Belgium, by making air travel cheaper for both airlines and customers.
The UK, on the other hand, has made its aviation industry suffer, according to O’Leary. ‘For an island nation to be taxing tourists at a time when Europe is making travel cheaper is insanely stupid.’ The executive was referring to the UK’s Air Passenger Duty, which places an £11 charge on every airline seat.
Leeds-Bradford is one of just two UK hubs to have experienced growth in the past year, alongside Scottish hub, Edinburgh. The two airports are also the only Ryanair bases to have avoided a cull of winter flights. The airline has cut 16% of its seasonal flights from the UK, and sent the extra planes to European bases.
Ryanair claims that its new routes from Leeds, in combination with the eleven winter routes already offered by the airline, will attract one million passengers a year to the West Yorkshire hub. The number of flights available is a direct contrast to winter 2009, when Ryanair had just three flights out of Leeds-Bradford.
Both airport and airline expressed their ‘delight’ at the development. Tickets for Ryanair’s new routes are already on sale.