As published in the Yorkshire Post jointly with Nick Fletcher MP
In July, the owners of Doncaster Sheffield Airport, the Peel Group, announced their concerns regarding the commercial viability of the airport. The public consultation which was launched into whether the airport has a future is due to close in three days on September 26.
This has caused entirely justified uproar in local communities, including in my Haltemprice and Howden constituency.
Cities like London, Belfast, Aberdeen, and Edinburgh have large airports that can accommodate small jets and large aircraft alike. But that is not the case in every part of the country. Away from cities, airports can become few and far between.
All too often we are forced to travel miles to large airports instead of being able to depart from an airport as close to their local area as possible.
If you live in East Yorkshire, you may have to go all the way to Leeds or even Manchester to connect, in London, to their destination.
This is not conducive to economic growth. It certainly does not help in levelling up. It is clearly unfair. Regional hubs like Doncaster Sheffield are vital in connecting its catchment to trade and economic opportunities. It boosts growth. It creates employment. It supports almost 1,000 jobs directly, countless others in the wider community and provides a key international transport link into Yorkshire as one of only two international airports in England’s largest county.
A quarter of a million jobs rely on regional airports across the UK, and countless other jobs are supported indirectly, £14bn is pumped into our economy every year as a result of the trade and employment opportunities these airports bring to their communities.
They link the energy industry in Humberside to the oil, gas, and renewable industry in Scotland’s north east.
They link island communities with the mainland, and they allow parts of the UK to do business with each other without being funnelled through London, Manchester, Birmingham, or Edinburgh.
If we are to make the UK’s recovery from the Covid pandemic a success, we must encourage global trade to come to all of Britain, not just London, as an essential part of rebuilding industry, unlocking supply chains, and staving off the worst of the ongoing inflation crisis. That starts with ensuring that there is fluid capability in our own internal market.
But we cannot allow those trade and economic opportunities to be confined to the largest metropolitan areas. If we do, communities all over the UK will be left behind. That is why regional airports are vital to Britain’s economy of the future.
But an airport without airlines to serve it is just a tarmac road in the country. The Government needs to give regional airlines the support they deserve for without them communities will be cut off and economic development will be stifled.
We also need to remember airports are businesses. Most regional airports struggle to command the demand needed by major airlines to run half or two thirds empty flights. That is why regional airlines are essential.
Schemes like the Regional Air Connectivity Fund, which provided funding for regional airports around the UK to open new air routes, need to be shored up and expanded. The more support regional airlines and airports have, the more routes they will be able to open which will only increase demand and turnover.