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.


16 Responses to Report Recommends Newquay-Style Airport Departure Tax

  1. Chris & June Jones Bell Rock Hotel December 7, 2012 at 6:01 pm

    The customer always win at the end of the day -todays transport figures say it all -15% down on2011 ! Years ago,when the demand mostly exceeded supply,BIH & Skybus told the visitor to accept no Sunday or go away – With massive competition now for the tourist £ , cheap flights to almost anywhere in europe on reliable 737 jets, the Islands have a survival fight if we are to be in the tourism industry, with a big sqeeze on incomes until 2018 Osborne said this week – Telling the visitor what they must have is not acceptable in 2013 -they vote with their feet-15%down & the same expected next year! Are we competing or not?

  2. Mike Vigar December 7, 2012 at 10:28 am

    Having worked for Skybus for many years, I can confirm that we visited the Sunday option on many occasions. Ground staff and air crews work to a six day roster and many work long hours in summer to accommodate the extra demand. To introduce a seventh day of working would require additional staff and would not be able to be covered with the existing staff working even longer hours. And guess who would pay for these extra costs? Yes, the passenger! I would also suggest there would be no additional benefit to hotels in summer as clients would stay until Sunday instead of leaving Saturday and then the Saturday arrivals would be Sunday – no net gain here. Some extra day trips perhaps, but poor weather forecast means no day trippers. We’ve been there before.

    • jonnyM December 7, 2012 at 10:56 am

      Mike, I’m not sure if your reasoning is sound…

      “I would also suggest there would be no additional benefit to hotels in summer as clients would stay until Sunday instead of leaving Saturday and then the Saturday arrivals would be Sunday – no net gain here. ”

      This is only true if all beds are taken and Sunday leavers are ‘bed blocking’ others. Occupancy has been well below 100% for several years now, so Sunday flying ‘could’ help increase this.

  3. Alec hicks December 7, 2012 at 8:30 am

    I wonder how much money was spent on the survey? The kids at school could have done that and made a better job, short brakes seem to be all the rage why not look after the people who come for a week or longer, the steamship co have it all at the moment why not reduce the boat fare and leave the planes on the ground, the problem is the ship would be running in the winter so we can get back and forth from Penzance. Alec

  4. Tybalt December 6, 2012 at 6:17 pm

    One armed bandits? Have we not got enough two armed bandits involved in trying to resolve the downward trend in visitor numbers? Price increases are not the answer. Listen to the visitor’s comments.

  5. al December 6, 2012 at 5:04 pm

    I enjoy the no fly, no boat day in Scilly as it gives a sense of ‘getting away from it all ‘, unique to Scilly. I know many other visitors who feel the same. Losing it may actually be a negative to tourism. Tread carefully!

  6. Adam Morton,St.Martins December 6, 2012 at 10:33 am

    If it costs that much how come Sky bus can build a whole new terminal for at Lands End for what was it? 1.5 million? We have heard there is already a grant to do the £700.000 runway? I have been at the airport cafe and its excellent where it is. How many people think “oh I’d like to go there “ “think I’ll just look up and check how good the airport facilities are” seriously? As far as I know the only thing a passenger wants to know is will the plane go up and come down when it’s supposed to and can they afford it?

    • lynn December 6, 2012 at 3:08 pm


  7. DaveH December 6, 2012 at 10:20 am

    Sounds to me like the report was written as a standard cut and paste. I can see it now “wheres our generic airport cost report I need to make up a new one for St Marys”

    Look at your passengers and the time they spend in the airport, this is not the same situation as normal mainland airports, people dont spend time there unless they have to, the taxis pick us up at the last possible moment to get us there just in time, and thats the way I like it! At that point in the holiday I doubt I will be spending money on WiFi, I havent got local currency to use up and chances are I have purchased all my gifts prior to departure. The only thing I am going to buy when there is some food from the cafe, and last year I couldnt even do that as the plane left 30 mins early!

    An airport departure tax is a bit of a misnomer, you might as well just increas the passenger handling fees, or the landing fees it would be pointless red tape that would cost to implement.

    Would flying 7 days a week change anything? My guess is not significantly, the cost for getting to the Islands is large, flights alone for my family cost me the same as the week in teneriffe all inclusive I have just booked, people are not going to pay that for a weekend visit no matter how lovely the islands, there arent that many super rich around. Getting people onto the islands and making the airport busy is about reducing cost of travel, no 2 ways about it.

  8. Jenny Green December 5, 2012 at 10:54 pm

    Don’t customers pay in their tickets now for using the airport. If I recall BIH at one time showed on their tickets the money that went towards using the airport. You could claim this back if your flight was cancelled due to poor weather and you were transferred to the ferry. ? if I recall it was/is about £12 per person. Therefore, the I.O.S Scilly Council already charge the customer, through the ticket fee.

  9. mainlander December 5, 2012 at 8:34 pm

    Please don’t tax visitors for choosing to travel to the islands! Sunday travel may well open up the weekend market- cost is always going to be one of the key issues.

  10. Kastri December 5, 2012 at 6:58 pm

    You heard it here first – a departure tax will destroy our numbers even further. I always thought the Newquay tax was mad. You will put off customers from coming so you can forget about non aero revenue as there will be less people to create it. Schoolboy error!

  11. Steve December 5, 2012 at 2:31 pm

    I absolutely agree that we must have 7 day transport to attract visitors to the islands (I’ve posted elsewhere with my thoughts on promoting short breaks to the Islands but these will really only be viable if we have 7 day flights).
    Hard to think that the installation of a one armed bandit is going to solve the airport’s problems, though!

  12. steveatt December 5, 2012 at 12:01 pm

    If they do go down the road of a departure tax – please please please put it on the ticket price – I resent paying the Newquay one at the airport but would hardly notice it on the air fare.

  13. Chris & June Jones Bell Rock Hotel December 5, 2012 at 11:39 am

    In a rapidly declining tourist market,mainly due to the high transport cost compared to easyjet, Ryanair etc, the islands need to decide whether we wish to compete for guests or not -if we do,then give the customers what they want & expect -7 day transport is essential in 2013 -either ship or plane .The airport can never be a profitable unit -it is too small -without subsidy it would close -If our EU contribution from the UK government is £50 million per DAY,and our area is classed as being as poor as parts of Portugal,surely our Councillors should be asking Brussells for help before our economy suffers -we are getting cancellations already!–oh,and where is the 2013 guide- lost in the post?

  14. susan December 5, 2012 at 11:29 am

    What’s the point in all that? Less people will be using the airport than before. Why not use the 4.6 million to subsidise another helicopter or concrete Lands End? Surely it would be better to spend it on getting more people over here in the first place! Departure tax??? Just an extra cost to make already extortionate fares even higher!