The future of Doncaster Sheffield Airport (DSA) in the UK is in doubt with airport bosses saying that aviation activity at the regional gateway “may no longer be commercially viable.”
Acquired by the Peel Group in 1999 as a purpose built airport serving a large geographic area East of the Pennines including Sheffield City Region, Yorkshire and The Humber, Lincolnshire and North Nottinghamshire, Doncaster Sheffield has a catchment of more than six million people within a 60 minute drive. Prior to COVID-19 the airport handled more than a million passengers annually and covered 50 destinations with its airline network.
According to aviation analytics firm Cirium, pre-pandemic, in 2019, the airport was the 26th biggest in the UK by departing flights. That same year, it recorded 4,609 departures – equating to nearly 750,000 seats, most of which was taken by WizzAir and the former Flybe. In 2021, Bucharest was the most popular destination with 171 flights, followed by Tenerife South (141 flights) and Lanzarote (127 flights).
Significant investments have been made in the airport’s terminal and airfield to improve the facilities and infrastructure. However, despite growth in passenger numbers, a statement from Peel Group’s airports revealed the airport had “never achieved the critical mass required to become profitable.” Last month Wizz Air announced the withdrawal of its aircraft from Doncaster Sheffield leaving the airport with only one base carrier, TUI.
Robert Hough, Chairman of Peel Group’s described Wizz Air’s decision as a “significant blow for the airport,” as he underlined that “despite pandemic-related travel restrictions slowly drawing to a close, we are still facing ongoing obstacles and dynamic long-term threats to the future of the aviation industry.”
A six-week consultation will now take place to decide the airport’s future, with the air transport hub expecting to operate as normal during this period.
Chambers of Commerce respond to news that DSA’s future is in doubt
Responding to the announcement of the Peel Group’s review, the CEOs of Barnsley & Rotherham, Doncaster and Sheffield Chambers of Commerce called for greater government support for the airport in a joint statement, saying:
“Since opening, Doncaster Sheffield has made a significant contribution to South Yorkshire. The airport has created jobs, improved global connectivity and done much to attract further investment into the region.
“With the challenges facing the aviation sector it is unsurprising the [Peel Group] are now starting this review. Any sensible business would. The government has not done enough to support the industry throughout the global pandemic. Much more should have been done to ensure the sector had sufficient resilience to bounce back.”
The chambers also noted that airports are valuable assets for the economies and communities they serve. “If aviation activity at Doncaster Sheffield Airport ends or scales back, this would be another major blow to the region’s infrastructure after several others, including the axing of our planned HS2 connection and rail services from south Yorkshire to Manchester Airport. The evidence is well-established that international connectivity underpins inward investment.”
The statement concluded: “We will stand alongside local partners if it becomes clear that government support is needed to put the airport on a firmer footing. Air travel is rightly under the spotlight owing to the climate crisis but you cannot grow a world-class economy if you do not have world-class international connectivity.”