Doncaster Sheffield airport could close, warns owner

The future of Doncaster Sheffield airport is in doubt after its owner said the site “may no longer be commercially viable”, especially following the withdrawal of Wizz Air.

The board has begun a review of strategic options for the airport, following “lengthy deliberations”.

The owner and principal funder of the airport, the Peel Group, acquired the site in 1999 and converted it into an international commercial airport, which opened in 2005.

However, despite growth in passenger numbers, the airport said it has never achieved the “critical mass” required to become profitable.

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“This fundamental issue of a shortfall in passenger numbers is exacerbated by the announcement on 10 June 2022 of the unilateral withdrawal of the Wizz Air based aircraft, leaving the airport with only one base carrier, namely Tui,” said the airport in a statement.

“This challenge has been increased by other changes in the aviation market, the well-publicised impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and increasingly important environmental considerations.

“It has therefore been concluded that aviation activity may no longer be the use for the site which delivers the maximum economic and environmental benefit to the region.”

Robert Hough, chairman of Peel Airports Group which includes Doncaster Sheffield, said: “It is a critical time for aviation globally.

“Despite pandemic related travel restrictions slowly drawing to a close, we are still facing ongoing obstacles and dynamic long-term threats to the future of the aviation industry.

“The actions by Wizz to sacrifice its base at Doncaster to shore up its business opportunities at other bases in the south of England are a significant blow for the airport.

“Now is the right time to review how DSA can best create future growth opportunities for Doncaster and for South Yorkshire.

“The Peel Group remains committed to delivering economic growth, job opportunities and prosperity for Doncaster and the wider region.”

The airport will operate as normal during the strategic review.

South Yorkshire business leaders commented on the announcement of the review, criticising the government for not giving aviation enough support during the pandemic.

The chief executives of Barnsley & Rotherham, Doncaster and Sheffield chambers of commerce said in a joint statement: “Since its opening, Doncaster Sheffield Airport has made a significant contribution to South Yorkshire.

“The government has not done enough to support the industry throughout the global pandemic. Much more should have been done to ensure the sector had sufficient resilience to bounce back.

“Airports are not just assets for their shareholders but for the economies and communities they serve. If aviation activity at Doncaster Sheffield Airport ends or scales back, this would be another major blow to the region’s infrastructure after several others, including the axing of our planned HS2 connection and rail services from South Yorkshire to Manchester Airport.

“Air travel is rightly under the spotlight owing to the climate crisis, but you cannot grow a world-class economy if you do not have world-class international connectivity.”

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