Issue date: 10 July 2019
Aberdeen Airport is a key economic driver for the north east. The fortunes of Aberdeen Airport have closely followed the economic strength of the region – although some dips have been experienced, the general trajectory of growth returns quickly. Whilst recent years have seen a downturn in the regional economy as a result of difficulties in the oil and gas industry, there is every reason to believe that a return to economic growth will again happen.
The north east has a very high propensity to fly and there is a very high business element to Aberdeen International Airport’s passenger base. In 2018, around 12% of the airport’s 3.1million passengers used helicopters to access offshore installations. 40% of journeys were international, with around half of all journeys within the UK.
The aviation industry faces environmental challenges and the Government’s declaration of a Climate Emergency will need to be tackled by the industry both in terms of efficiencies and in technological advances. These are matters which cannot be addressed by Nestrans or indeed Aberdeen International Airport. The airport will continue to be crucial for connectivity and to enable the regional development essential to support the long-term economic well-being of the region.
Improving aviation performance, reducing carbon emissions and considering the potential for alternatively-fuelled aeroplanes will need to be addressed by manufacturers and others. Nestrans’ Regional Transport Strategy will need to focus on areas where we can influence the airport to improve facilities available for travellers, the range of destinations available from Aberdeen and ensure that access options are available for those travelling to the airport.
It is important that we understand different markets and recognise which are key routes in terms of the Strategy’s objectives. At present, these are seen to be:
- Lifeline services such as to the Northern Isles will continue to be crucial;
- Business flights, both in terms of helicopter transport and workers accessing Aberdeen to travel offshore, as well as critical business destinations including London, Scandinavia and major capitals;
- Interlining opportunities through major hubs provide access to more distant markets such as the USA, Far East, Africa and South America which are unlikely to warrant direct flights from Aberdeen. Key hubs are London Heathrow, Paris Charles de Gaulle and Amsterdam with identified potential for more connections if further options were available including London Gatwick, Copenhagen, Madrid and Frankfurt;
- Leisure/tourism markets, particularly where opportunities exist for two-way demand including Poland, Germany, Netherlands and Scandinavia which can also open up city break and business opportunities;
- Holiday markets, which although predominantly seasonal, add to the desirability and liveability of the region and avoids leakage to competing airports such as Edinburgh, Glasgow and Manchester.
The uneven playing field whereby some airports are effectively subsidised by being exempt from paying Air Passenger Duty has impacted on Aberdeen’s ability to attract and retain some routes and this needs to be addressed by national Governments. Whilst acknowledging the requirement for Public Service Obligations to ensure lifeline routes are protected, others such as services to Amsterdam or Gatwick should not be being favoured when they are commercially operated.
Facilities available at Aberdeen Airport have been upgraded in recent years. Terminal expansion has enabled additional baggage check areas, new retail opportunities and improved waiting lounges. Further enhancements are scheduled in coming years. The Aberdeen Airport Masterplan was approved in 2012 and has driven changes including runway extension and the recent terminal improvements. The Masterplan covers the period to 2040 and projects annual patronage of 5.1 million by that time.
The other key consideration for Nestrans in terms of the airport is the role of an Airport Surface Access Strategy. The opening of the Western Peripheral Route and upgraded road network in and around Dyce have made a significant contribution to improving the attractiveness of Aberdeen Airport and have increased the catchment within an hour’s drivetime to over 500,000 people. Public transport access however is less attractive. Despite rail improvements and new bus services directly to the terminal, just 14% of passengers currently arrive by public transport. Nestrans would like to work with Aberdeen International Airport and the operators of TECA/P&J Live, bus operators and others to produce an Airport Surface Access Strategy and develop a range of options for airport users. This should include targets for public transport access to the airport and could include consideration of innovative or non-conventional links, such as trams, shuttle buses, pods or travellators along with options for rail enhancements and parking controls to encourage more sustainable travel and ensure that options are available for travellers.
- Annual number of passengers through Aberdeen Airport (3.1million in 2018, AIAL Masterplan target 5.1million by 2040: target +2.35% per annum)
- Proportion of Scotland’s air passengers using Aberdeen Airport (10.4% in 2018);
- Number of destinations available direct from Aberdeen (42 destinations in 18 countries in 2018);
- Mode split of passengers using Aberdeen Airport (14% of passengers used public transport in 2018).