Manchester Airport announced record passenger numbers earlier this week. Blackpool Airport announced it was closing. Airport’s in other provincial cities like Liverpool and Leeds now have to seriously ask if they have a sustainable future over the next decade, as airlines look to ‘hubs’ in order to gain the best commercial bang for their buck – with the pressure on their costs only likely to go one way!
For Leeds in particular, the debate is pertinent, and already on the agenda. Council leader Keith Wakefield has already raised the prospect of the Airport being relocated, with almost everyone accepting that if we were building it today, the Airport would not be located where it is.
The cost of such a move is likely to prove prohibitive, and so the next best option is to develop a significantly improved infrastructure that starts to connect the Airport to surrounding towns and cities.
Unsurprisingly this is the strategy favoured by the Airports management team, but is a huge investment in this type of infrastructure regeneration wise?
The debate over the Airports location has arguably been overtaken by its ability to compete with a genuinely International Airport just over an hour away.
Since Manchester got over its snobbery towards budget flights, the low cost airline owners have flocked there, and it is difficult to see how this trend can be reversed given the development of Airport City on the back of an enterprise zone, and the high speed link from Manchester to London.
It is too early to advocate throwing the towel in yet. But it’s not too early to have the debate about the future of Leeds Airport.