Blackpool Airport: Exciting new masterplan is ready for take off, but will holiday flights return?

A new masterplan for Blackpool Airport unveiled today outlines a £3.45m investment to safeguard aviation in the resort.

Friday, 26th October 2018, 5:14 pm
Updated Monday, 29th October 2018, 1:18 pm
The airport masterplan

Key to the strategy to keep the Squires Gate terminal viable will be a focus on executive flights, retaining a key off-shore helicopter contract and ploughing cash in to upgrade worn out aircraft hangars.

A new apron for jets could be built while opportunities to build up businesses such as aircraft maintenance and flight training will be pursued.

But a report going before councillors says bringing back holiday flights could not currently be justified on cost grounds.

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Blackpool Airport

The report has been produced by industry consultants York Aviation who were commissioned by Blackpool Council which bought the airport just over a year ago.

Its findings say the 400 acre airport has an important role to play in developing the wider enterprise zone.

Proposals include replacing old hangars with new aircraft facilities closer to the runway, thus freeing up land alongside Squires Gate Lane for new business units.

This would both create employment and bring in additional business rates to the council which could be ploughed back into the airport.

Mark Smith

Coun Mark Smith, cabinet member for regeneration, enterprise and economic development for Blackpool Council said: “The York Aviation report provides clear guidance for future marketing opportunities and identifies priorities for investment.

“It gives an invaluable steer on management roles and responsibilities to enable a long term, sustainable, operational airport and the successful delivery of the overall enterprise zone.“At this stage, it is clear the reintroduction of commercial flights is not financially viable.

“Similarly, the operation of smaller services such as flights to the Isle of Man, Dublin and Belfast, would break even at best.

“If we are to maintain an operational airport in Blackpool it is critical we take heed of the financial reality.

“The airport is an integral part of the future development of the enterprise zone and a much loved and valued transport asset for Lancashire.

“Our focus and dedication is to support the business sectors already operating and to promote opportunities for new growth for the airport.”

The council has allocated borrowing of £28.8m over the next three years for development of the Blackpool Airport Enterprise Zone.

This includes £3.45m towards relocating and replacing older aircraft hangars, providing a new apron and a new offshore helicopter terminal.

It is estimated the land released by the relocation of the airport operational facilities, together with the new airport facilities, could generate investment to support 2,156 new jobs and £34m in additional business rates to fund further investment.

The report is due to go before Blackpool Council’s executive on Monday November 5.

Why are holiday flights unlikely to return?

York Aviation considered the reintroduction of commercial passenger services “on a similar scale to those previously operated by Jet2.”

But the increased costs associated with such a move “would result in a loss of around £590,000 per annum”.

The reinstatement of low volume services across the Irish Sea would “still leave the airport profitable, but on a much reduced scale”.

Research found around 1.5 million passengers a year would be needed to justify the investment required to accommodate holiday flights.

At the height of the Jet2 era, passenger numbers at Blackpool peaked at 700,000 per year and it is estimated the current demand is only around 250,000.

Capital costs for a passenger terminal and car park would increase to around £42m.

The report says investment “would far outweigh the income that could be generated.”

It concludes “this is not an approach which can be recommended at the current time” but adds this “does not preclude it being revisited in the future should market conditions change considerably.”