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Air Southwest Exits Gatwick

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Air Southwest Exits Gatwick

Old 10th Jan 2011, 12:29
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Air Southwest Exits Gatwick

Air Southwest scraps all flights between Plymouth and London

AIR Southwest is to scrap all flights between Plymouth and London, as well as Newquay and London, from the start of next month.

The company, which was sold by Plymouth's Sutton Harbour Holdings to Eastern Airways at the end of last year, has today announced changes to its operational schedule and will cease flying from Newquay and Plymouth airports to London Gatwick from February 1.

All passengers booked to fly from Newquay will be contacted and offered an alternative Flybe flight free of charge. Passengers booked from Plymouth will be contacted and refunded.

The rest of the Air Southwest schedule is unaffected. The airline will continue to operate regular scheduled services from Newquay to Leeds Bradford, Manchester, Cardiff, Bristol, Dublin, Cork, Newcastle and Glasgow; and from Plymouth to Leeds Bradford, Manchester, Bristol, Jersey, Guernsey, Dublin, Cork and Glasgow.

A spokesman said: "Air Southwest has also confirmed that it is having exploratory discussions with Flybe on potential areas for future positive cooperation going forward."


Makes commercial sense but a hard decision to make I guess ?
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Old 10th Jan 2011, 12:45
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It had to come sadly for ASW there was never room for both carriers.
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Old 10th Jan 2011, 19:31
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A someone with a rather small brain, I'm slightly puzzled as to the great importance of the air route from Plymouth to Gatwick.
Playing devil's advocate, apart from competition to keep FGW from getting too slack, could someone explain why there needs to be air service to predominantly O&D Gatwick (as opposed to a connection hub like Heathrow) instead of just the hourly train to Paddington taking a little over 3 hours ?

Who are the core customer groups, and how bad would the train be by comparison ? I'm not saying the route should close - just want to see someone make a well argued case as to why it's needed.

Note - I know that everyone has in the past had a trip with a heavily delayed train, but planes can be heavily delayed as well - I'd like to keep the discussion general rather than hearing about what happened to you one day 10 years ago.
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Old 10th Jan 2011, 19:49
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There is a proven case that for INBOUND business pax from Europe and the US, being able to make the trip throughout by plane, in timetables published worldwide had a signficant positive impact on the ability to develop business contacts with those other places.

By no means everybody wishes to start or finish their trip in Central London (not that Paddington, being in W2, easily passes many tests for being in "Central" London - there was a challenge through the Advertising Standards Agency a while ago about Heathrow Express saying it was), and the proportion of business travellers who do wish to start there falls as the years go by, so somewhere near the M25 attracts a different passenger group. Which is true of many domestic flights - they are actually not directly competitive with rail, but attract different passenger groups.

Yes the train is more frequent and serves many more points in the South-West, although the way that train fares have gone, being double or triple if you don't tie your trip to a single departure booked in advance, much of that frequency advantage is lost.

You are correct that Gatwick doesn't have the impact that the Heathrow schedules in years gone past had. Which is probably why ASW can't make a go of it long term. I would have thought that an Air France route from CDG to Plymouth/Newquay would do well for intercontinental connections and some O&D on top.
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Old 10th Jan 2011, 20:32
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The press article suggests the end of all services to London. I had a hunch flights may be switched at some stage to Stansted or Luton but that appears not to be the case now (unless there is a cynical 'response to popular demand' switch up the sleeve to be announced in the next month or two).

WHBM is right about central London not being that important - for those in Herts/Beds/Essex/East Anglia etc and patches of north and east London Plymouth and Cornwall are a very long drive away, the train requires an additional journey into London with underground connections and getting to LGW isn't attractive. There is certainly a market from STN/LTN to be tapped.
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Old 10th Jan 2011, 20:59
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I would take Luton or Stansted over nothing. It is important for plymouth as a city becuase the motorway stops at Exeter and the trains take almost 5 hours to get into london, the railway down here is awful. really saddened by this news.
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Old 10th Jan 2011, 21:52
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Surprised that nobody is mentioning this part:

Air Southwest has also confirmed that it is having exploratory discussions with Flybe on potential areas for future positive cooperation going forward
Whatever this means...
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Old 10th Jan 2011, 21:56
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the trains take almost 5 hours to get into london
Timetable says 3 - 3.5 hrs. I think you must be adding the time zone difference
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Old 10th Jan 2011, 22:08
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Clearly the figures just do not add up to operate a profitable route to LGW and no business can operate at a loss indefinitely. Some seem to be suggesting LHR would be a better bet but did one of ASW's predecessors (Brymon?) operate to LHR but had to give up and move to LGW to try to make it profitable?

Unfortunately not every remote region can justify an air link - thats life
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Old 10th Jan 2011, 22:36
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The route is a LHR one historically and had a fair amount of transfer traffic. When Brymon were bought by BA, they nicked ["moved" surely - Ed] the slots for something with more seats and shuffled the British Regional DHC-8s off to Gatwick.

This ended up losing money and was eventually dropped. Fearful of losing the London link, (this predates Rynair's STN-NQY), Air Southwest were formed to pick up the reigns with some ex Brymon metal and there was no break in service. Air Southwest then expanded into LCY, which lost money, then latterly found the NQY leg of the LGW routes under assault from the airline that gobbled up the remains of Britsh Regional / BA CitiExpree / BA Connect, Jim French's resurgent flybe. Unable to sustain continuing losses, fares were hiked back up and we arrive at where we are today.

I have no doubt PLH/NQY would work at LHR, as would JER, INV and a few others. That would require a thought out transport policy instead of just chucking more A380s into LHR though.
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Old 11th Jan 2011, 07:13
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While this is true, for all concerned other than those living in the southwest - the airlines, BAA, the government etc. - a A380 landing at LHR is more attractive from a commercial point of view than a Q300 touching down from PLH. Sad, but true. There can never be so many businessmen on the Q300 who would refuse to travel to Plymouth on anything other than on a plane that the economic power an A380 will generate can be offset.
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Old 11th Jan 2011, 09:09
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Shame isn't in it. If the government had made the third runway contingent on allowing some slots for up to four a day flights to Teesside, Inverness, Plymouth, Leeds, and all the other UK places that have lost air service to London over recent years, all the MPs would have been right behind it.

Likewise if BAA had been a bit more politically savvy about things aeronautic rather than retail, they would have presented this not as a "third runway" but as a "realignment of 23".
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Old 11th Jan 2011, 10:55
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London is not the centre of the universe and losing an air link to Gatwick is not the end of the world. As others have stated, train times to the capital from the South West are between 3 and 4 hours and the Gatwick service offered little to no connectivity.

The priority should be gaining another hub feeding service, which offers proper connections on the one booking etc. KLM to Amsterdam would be the most obvious possibility IMO.

Also, Aer Lingus regional to Exeter? I don't think its been mentioned before but I don't see any reason why not. Aer Lingus regional serve, or have served far smaller cities in the UK recently.
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Old 11th Jan 2011, 13:26
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A london route to exeter wouldnt work, competition with rail means it cannot be profitable, Flybe have already done studies into an Exeter-London route.

Here is what Plymouth City Council has had to say, some interesting tibits;

The Chamber is now calling for an independent study into the future of air travel from Plymouth to cover areas such as the feasibility of a runway extension and using new technology to shorten the distance needed to take off and land at the airport – which has a short runway that cannot be used by many types of aircraft.

A spokesman for Plymouth City Council said the news was "disappointing" and that it would be discussing the implications of this decision with the airline.
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Old 11th Jan 2011, 14:00
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Plymouth is to lose its air link to Gatwick after Air Southwest announced closure of the loss-making route.
Air Southwest’s flights, which operate from Plymouth via Newquay, will cease on February 1. The decision follows the takeover of Air Southwest by Humberside-based Eastern Airways in September, which has vowed to return its subsidiary to profitability
Read more; Gatwick-Plymouth air route to close | ABTN

I think those points highlighted say it all. Neither Sutton Holdings nor Eastern Airways are charities.
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Old 11th Jan 2011, 16:27
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According to the Western Morning News only one third of the passengers to Gatwick from Newquay and Plymouth joined at PLY. If that's the case, surely with a decent service in terms of flights per day, Air Southwest were poorly supported by the Plymouth business community? As a Cornish council charge payer I am concerned at the adverse effect it will have on the economics associated with running Newquay where the Council is already strapped for cash and likely to remain so for the forseeable future.
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Old 11th Jan 2011, 19:26
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I think Plymouth and Newquay are different in a number of ways:

Plymouth is a small airport with limited runway length. It only has one operator, which was started by the company that owns the airport. It is a large city that has reasonable road and rail communications with the rest of the country.

Newquay is a larger airfield with a longer runway. It has a number of operators, albeit limited number of movements. It serves a remote area with scattered population, further from London, with no rail link.

Their relative proximity allowed a London service to be shared. Changes in fee levels at Gatwick no doubt played a part in the demise of the London link. I for one don't expect to see another operator at Plymouth until the economy improves, and perhaps not even then.

FlyBe has a decent hub at EXT which is only 40 miles from Plymouth, and Newquay will no doubt pull in some operators targeting holidaymakers. But with a sparse population with low propensity to travel, the far southwest will have difficulty attracting services from other carriers.
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Old 11th Jan 2011, 20:28
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Historically PLH/LGW/PLH was a Twotter route, whilst PLH/NQY/LHR/PLH/NQY was a (shared) DHC7 route, probanly 40% of LHR pax originating in PLH, 60% in NQY.

At one time Air UK operated a Bandit EXT/LGW/EXT, Brymon's PLH Twotter was circa 50% load facors, Air UK dropped the EXT route, Brymon picked it up, sharing it with the PLH route, and still they couldn't fill Y20 Twotters!

LGW does not have the international connections that LHR has, I posted a while back, as no LHR slots available, they need a South West to CDG or AMS route to offer pax international connections from/to the South West.
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Old 11th Jan 2011, 20:52
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Flybe do have a service from EXT to CDG which is AF codeshare. Hopefully this will be increased now the AIR SW route to LGW will cease. EY also offer codeshare flights to EXT via MAN.
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Old 11th Jan 2011, 21:29
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Having gone into the terminal a number of times for a coffee before flying at the club, it has become increasingly apparent that the number of passengers appears to be very low - even with a flight due to depart within an hour. Speaking to some people who have lived in the south west all their lives, they were not even aware that Plymouth had an airport (could be ignorance, however it has happened a couple of times).

It must be very difficult for a small, local airline in an area with a relatively small population to make it's mark. Plymouth is too far from London to run an effective local commuter flight every morning and afternoon, and for the holiday makers, why not just get on a train to Exeter or Bristol and fly from there? Also, the members of the armed forces staying there will have forces railcards (students will have student railcards) making the railways more tempting to more people. Put simply, the demand is just no longer there.
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