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Adverse Weather Slams IOM's Ronaldsway Airport

by Amanda Banks,, London

24 December 2010

The Isle of Man government has reported that extreme weather during November, continuing into December, has stunted growth in international passenger figures for the Isle of Man airport, Ronaldsway.

The announcement comes after solid improvements in passenger figures including a better than expected increase of almost 4% recorded in October.

November saw a decrease of 5.4%, which the airport accredited to the combination of storms in early November and freezing temperatures and unprecedented snowfall through the latter part of the month.

Thousands of passengers were affected by the extreme weather during November and disruptions continued in December. On November 11 storms packing record-breaking winds battered the island, causing flights to be cancelled in the latter part of the day. At the end of the month, the unseasonal freeze, which brought with it sub-zero temperatures and over 3 inches of snow, again resulted in the airport being closed, for 22 hours.

Ann Reynolds, Airport Director, stressed that both of these weather events created conditions which meant that normal operations proved impossible, with many flights cancelled and an inevitable drop in passenger numbers:

“It is difficult to accurately judge the shortfall in passengers as a result of the weather, as some passengers re-booked on later flights and others cancelled their travel arrangements,” she said. “[During December], I estimate that [there] has probably been a reduction of around 3,000 passengers in total – about the level of the November decrease. Whilst this is a disappointing outturn, given our recent improvements, the decrease of over 5.4% is still some 2% better than we originally forecast for November back in the earlier part of the year, indicating that the underlying trend towards a solid recovery is still very positive”.

Aside from the effects of the weather, again the Liverpool route, operated by Flybe and easyJet, showed a substantial increase in November, but overall the North West region generated slightly fewer passengers than in November 2009. Similarly Flybe’s London Gatwick route increased by 10%, but overall the London routes were down due to reduced capacity on the London City route. Despite the weather – and the Irish economy – Aer Arann’s service to Dublin proved to be popular with an increase of 5.7%. The Belfast City route also saw a massive increase of 28%, this being due to the consolidation of their Belfast International services at the City Airport.

Looking ahead, the government has said that optimism remains for steady growth in 2011 for the Isle of Man Airport, despite the difficult economic conditions in the UK and Ireland.

Minister for Infrastructure, Phil Gawne, acknowledged that the months ahead will remain challenging for UK and Irish air travel, but he said there was an opportunity for the island to attract the short break leisure market in 2011.

“At a time when people in the UK and Ireland are having to tighten their belts, with the consequential cutback in leisure travel to Europe and further afield, the Isle of Man can provide good value short breaks that would benefit both our air and sea services,” he said.

“The summer schedules for next year are looking promising. With the additional Freedom flights to Ibiza, and Thomas Cook operating a “TT getaway” to Palma during June, we expect to see a marked improvement in traffic for 2011.”

TAGS: aviation

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