Air, Freight News

Updated: Manston Airport may close

[ March 19, 2014   //   ]

Manston airport set to close

Manston airport in South-east England is set to close, a few months after being acquired by the Gloag Foundation from its previous owner, Infratil, for £1 last October. The 144 employees affected were told on 19 March that a statutory 45-day consultation period would begin from that date.

The Gloag Foundation, owned by AnnGloag, founder of trains and buses operator Stagecoach, said that it had been losing £10,000 a day on the operation since acquiring  it from the New Zealand infrastructure company. Infratil also sold Prestwick airport in Scotland to the local authority on the same date.

Business turnaround expert Alastair Welch was put in charge the airport, which unveiled a plan to boost cargo traffic to 400,000 tonnes a year.

Manston’s passenger business is at a low ebb, with just two scheduled flights a day to Schiphol operated by KLM. But the airport with its long runway was an invaluable base for freighter operators, squeezed out of busier airports in the London area.

However, it is understood that one factor in the decision to close Manston was major customer Saudi Airlines Cargo’s decision to switch to a seasonal operation and cancel its summer flights.  Saudi had been operating two 747 freighters a week into Manston from East Africa.  The total of 12 scheduled freighters per week operating through the airport also included services by Cargolux, Magma Aviation and Allied Aviation.

British Airways decision to replace its chartered freighters with a capacity share on Qatar Airways is also believed to have seriously blunted growth prospects. And a final nail in the coffin was the falling through of talks with low-cost airline Ryanair.

Local press reports suggested that the site may now be turned over to housing.

Leader of Thanet District Council, Clive Hart described the news as “potentially a devastating blow to the local economy, adding that the council had supported the development of the airport: “This is very disappointing news,” he said.