Exeter Airport is on course for another year of growth as it cements its position as the gateway airport to the South West and looks forward to new flights to London City Airport in just 10 weeks’ time.
Following last year’s 6% increase – the first in six years – in passenger numbers to 740,000 the airport has maintained growth in the first half of 2014, buoyed by growing consumer demand and increased capacity on popular routes.
It is also just over a year since Exeter Airport was acquired by Regional & City Airports, the airport management division of Rigby Group plc, which recently bought Norwich International Airport, owns Coventry Airport and manages Blackpool International Airport and City of Derry Airport.
Sir Peter Rigby, founder, CEO and chairman of Rigby Group, said: “Rigby Group recognises the value of regional airports in connecting local and regional communities to the rest of the UK and beyond, and we see great opportunities to cement Exeter’s position as the gateway airport to the South West and a real driver for economic growth.”
Matt Roach, managing director of Exeter Airport, added: “We’ve had a very encouraging start to the year and are well on course to exceed three quarters of a million passengers in 2015.
“That has come from a combination of returning consumer confidence, increased capacity on popular routes, and the success of Flybe’s turnaround plan, which has seen our resident airline boost load factors significantly over the first half of this year.”
Mr Roach said Flybe’s re-introduction of its daily Newcastle service from October and regular daily flights to Manchester further enhance Exeter’s domestic and global connectivity for business and leisure travellers. He said a significant and growing number of passengers to Manchester now connect to an onward flight and that Paris and Amsterdam were also key hub destinations for future growth.
He added that new flights this year include a service to Crete, greater frequency on the popular route to Paris and increased capacity to Dublin, while direct Skybus flights to the Isles of Scilly, which increased from one to five a day last year, had remained very popular.
But the jewel in the crown of new routes will be the launch on 27 October of Flybe’s Exeter to London City Airport service, bringing its number of direct destinations from Exeter to 18. With up to three flights a day and the first arriving in London before 8am, it is expected to be very popular with business travellers and has been the most requested route from Exeter.
Mr Roach said: “These flights will give the rail services a real run for their money and are generating a lot of interest. The timings are so good, whether for a day’s work or for a weekend leisure break, and we expect to see a lot of demand in both directions especially because of Exeter’s gateway position in the region. We’ve also committed to fast-track London City passengers because this is all about time-saving air travel.”
Mr Roach said the airport was continuing to invest in a range of facilities, with enhanced airside infrastructure including improved hangars, a new navigational system that will be a first for a UK airport, and the complete refurbishment of the airport’s corporate aviation facility which is becoming increasingly popular with private air travellers.
In the terminal passengers will start to see a number of improvements in the build up to the launch of the London City service, and August will see the start of work on improvements to the airport’s approach road by Devon County Council, including road widening and a dedicated filter lane to the airport.