Report Recommends Newquay-Style Airport Departure Tax

St Mary’s Airport

St Mary’s airport may need to introduce a passenger departure tax and operate on Sundays if it is to survive long-term without a subsidy.

That’s the conclusion of a report by airport consultants Parsons Brinkerhoff that will go before councillors at tomorrow’s Transport Strategy committee.

Much of the 230 page report deals with improvements to the airport’s infrastructure, such as improved runways, air traffic control and poor weather guidance systems, and details were released in September.

It’s hoped these improvements, likely to cost in the region of £4.6m will increase the numbers of passengers flying through the airport as well as potentially bringing more carriers to the islands.

But the most significant recommendation is that the decline in passenger numbers can’t be reversed without the airport opening on Sundays. The report says the increase in weekend travellers, who want to leave work on Thursday and be back at their desks for Monday morning, can only be accommodated by flying all weekend.

And they believe this is possible without extra staff by spreading their hours through quieter times of the week, although air traffic control operating hours could be a problem.

The final version has added a detailed analysis of the long-term financial outlook for the airport, which must be improved, warn the authors.

The airport underperforms on ‘non-aero’ revenue, the money made from passengers as they pass through the airport on sales of goods and services such as newspapers, food and drink and internet access.

This income is just 29p per passenger at St Mary’s airport, way below the £4.52 generated by other airports.

However money generated through the flights themselves, or ‘aero’ revenue, is higher, at £16.90, against £11.30 elsewhere, although the report cautions that high landing charges could prevent ticket prices from being reduced.

They suggest moving the café to increase the number of passengers using it, installing commercial Wi-Fi access and developing a website for the airport to sell advertising space.

Controversially, a Newquay-style airport development fee of £2 per departing passenger could be introduced.

A cashpoint could also be installed as well as gaming machines.

These changes could generate an extra £60,000 per year for the airport.

However, Parsons Brinkerhoff don’t believe car parking charges or a ‘drop off’ fee would generate much extra income as the equipment needed would be expensive, create adverse publicity and effectively be a tax on locals rather than visitors.

They’ve also rejected a business lounge as it would take up space and most passengers arrive at the airport with little spare time to actually use it.

Outside the passenger terminal, even more money could be generated from improving aircraft services, such as a new hangar, sales of aviation fuel and offering fire and safety courses, say the consultants.


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