Smaller regional airports are favoured – but airlines are set to reduce services after profits are hit...
It appears local is best, with a new survey by Which? Travel magazine showing those who use smaller regional airports are much happier than those who use major ones.
The decision by leading budget airline Easyjet to switch flights to Southend Airport from Stansted in 2012 was clearly an inspired move: London Southend topped the customer satisfaction survey with a score of 84% and a maximum five-star rating in five of ten categories assessed.
Other highly-rated small airports with high marks include Humberside (81%), Robin Hood Doncaster Sheffield (78%), London City (77%), Southampton (77%) and Blackpool (74%).
Sue Kendrick, Corporate Affairs Manager at Blackpool Airport, said: “We have always scored highly in the Which? passenger surveys and are delighted once again to be recognised for providing hassle-free, enjoyable travel as the dedicated airport for Lancashire and the Lake District.”
Only three of Britain’s largest airports made the top ten. Newcastle International (69%), Birmingham Terminal 1 (66%) and London Heathrow Terminal 5 (66%) all scored highly.
London Luton was grounded with a customer score of just 43%, while Heathrow’s Terminal 1 (45%) and Terminal 3 (46%) scored a dismal two stars for design.
Meanwhile, low-cost airline Ryanair is to reduce its flying schedules and cut fares this winter after seeing its profit hopes dented by growing headwinds.
The Dublin-based carrier said increased competition and Europe’s continued economic problems were having an impact on fares and the profit it makes per passenger.
It said it will respond to the weaker outlook by selectively reducing its winter season capacity and rolling out lower fares and “aggressive” seat promotions in markets including the UK.
The strategy will cut its annual traffic forecast by 500,000 to 81 million while profits will be at the lower end of its previous forecast of between £483m and £508m.
The update caused its shares to slide 14%, while Luton-based rival easyJet dropped 7% in the FTSE 100 Index. Thomson Holidays owner TUI Travel and British Airways parent firm International Airlines Group were 4% lower.
This week’s warning comes a month after Ryanair chief executive Michael O’Leary said July’s heatwave in northern Europe impacted on demand.
More normal booking patterns returned in August but in recent weeks the company has noticed a “perceptible dip” in forward fares and yields into September, October and November.
Ryanair said this was due to a combination of factors, including increased price competition and some rival capacity increases in the UK, Scandinavian, Spanish and Irish markets.
It also pointed to the continuing effect of austerity and difficult economic conditions across Europe and the impact of the weaker sterling against euro exchange rate.
The company said: “We will respond to this lower yield outlook by selectively reducing our winter season capacity, cutting our full year traffic target from over 81.5 million to just under 81 million.
We are also rolling out a range of lower fares and aggressive seat sales particularly in those markets mainly UK, Scandinavia, Spain and Ireland.”
It said it remains confident that it will continue to hit revised passenger targets, albeit at lower fares and yields than originally expected.
The company added: “Accordingly it is prudent to advise shareholders that our full year profit after tax guidance will now be at the lower end of our 570 million euros to 600 million euros range.”
How to book
:: Eurostar (08432 186 186/eurostar.com) offers a weekend package to Ghent from £234 for two people travelling in standard class with one night’s accommodation at the NH Belfort. For more information about Ghent, visit www.visitflanders.com