Considering the Yorkshire and Humberside region represents the 3rd largest business centre in the UK and is home to over 5.3 million, the need for a proper ‘international airport’ here has never been higher. With its main competitor, Manchester Airport a considerable and tedious motorway commute away, the pressure on Leeds Bradford to step us has reached its pinnacle – and it seems it’s delivering!
Once considered ‘local’ Leeds Bradford Airport (LBA) has published recent figures indicating its growing ambition to internationalise, boasting an impressive 5% increase in passenger numbers and 6% increase in revenue for the year ending 31st March 2016. This past year has therefore represented a record revenue in business for the regions airport. Carrying 3.5 million passengers, the airport is still operating within its potential capacity, but recent investments to the modern two-story terminal and new airline partnerships are helping to deliver a real drive for demand and surging revenues.
In past years LBA has made marginal losses, but performances of late have more than halved these in the space of just 12 months. Tony Hallwood, Aviation Development Director, explained losses to be increasingly on the decline and emphasised underlying business to be strong. And it seems this optimism is well founded, given the recent launch of the ‘Airport Masterplan’ in April of this year – shooting for increased operational routes from 64 today to over 100 by 2030. Passenger numbers are also set to double over the same period to 7 million.
In terms of the terminal, a new Premier lounge, alongside huge investments in retail and dining facilities air-side represent only a fraction of the work so far to enhance experiences for passengers. And on the internationalisation front, the airport is also making movements, now providing flights to over 50 European regions – including 11 capital cities. Through the addition of recent relationships made with the likes Monarch, destinations such as Alicante and Malaga are increasingly available for passengers looking for year round sun, and these now represent two of the most popular routes airport wide.
At the heart of the Yorkshire region, and only 7 miles from the city centre LBA is also the local airport for a vast student community. Reinvestment into routes including Southampton, Newquay, Belfast, Guernsey, Jersey, Aberdeen, Glasgow, Dublin and recently London Heathrow (with British Airways!) now provide a quick and convenient alternative to lengthy alternate road, rail or sea travel back home. Just another way the airport may be able to hoist its impressive growth figures looking into next year.
Looking ahead airport bosses are expecting further financial improvement, including reduced annual losses, on the back of attracting even more new routes and services. They appear confident that 2017 will be another record-breaking year with already 7 confirmed new destinations and plans in place to carry out the remaining expansive investments. With business booming, and with an Action Plan active, it seems the sky really is the limit for our neighbouring airport. Which is convenient.
By Alex Hallwood