How can airports survive?

By | Category: Travel tips & opinions

With so few flights, many airports are in financial straits. They still have salaries, and any number of fixed costs that they still have to pay so what can they do to build income streams during the pandemic?

An artist’s impression of what the hanger to house the Vulcan might look like. Image – VTTST

Until passengers feel confident enough to fly again in the numbers of 2019, airports will just leak cash.

Over last weekend Spain announced a six month curfew for the mainland which suggests that they see no return to normality until after Easter 2021?

If airlines don’t do something now, their long-term futures might be bleak.

It has been argued that airports aren’t really passenger movement areas but giant retail and industrial sites which get clogged up with passengers. Who hasn’t heard an airport manager say – perhaps jocularly – that an airport would be great if it weren’t for the passengers?

Doncaster-Sheffield Airport is the home of the The Vulcan to the Sky Trust (VTTST), which was responsible for restoring a Vulcan bomber XH558 to flight. It also has a Canberra bomber as well in its collection. The trust is trying to raise a a mortgage of up to £2.4 million to enable it to build a hangar at the airport so that the Vulcan can be brought under cover and protected from the elements.

But it doesn’t need to be undercover in the short-term.

Couldn’t other airports consider parking different types of planes on spare tarmac areas and get allow the public to visit for a fee? Couldn’t aeroplane preservation bring their planes and operate outside demonstration so that social distancing was observed? At the same time, airports could demonstrate how they are making airports safer for passengers.

In the west country an airport that was an RAF base until the turn of the century  has shown that it can think outside the box.

Cotswold Airport near Cirencester in Gloucestershire houses a Bristol Britannia which visitors can see and, in the near future, it will also have a BA Boeing 747.

A BA 747 in the livery to be seen at Cotswold Airport. Image – Stuart Bailey

This aircraft will have an area of its interior converted to be used as a unique business, conferencing and private hire venue, as well as a cinema for locals and an educational facility for school trips. It is planned that the aircraft will be open to the public from Spring 2021 which, given the ways things are going, is when some semblance of normality will resume. Money raised from visitors will help an aviation scholarship fund and local charities.

Back in 2019, Just about Travel mentioned that a 747 had been bought by a hotel just outside Schipol Airport in Amsterdam and would be used as a 5D and aviation history-experience. Although this isn’t at the airport but at the Corendon Village Hotel what is to stop airports using vintage aircraft for visitor “experiences” of all kinds?   

If a hotel can devise an aviation “experience” why not an airport?

Why can’t other airports be as entrepreneurial?

It doesn’t need to be limited to planes. All sorts of vehicles could be parked (in autumn and winter, even spring, fields can get boggy so tractors need to be on hand to pull the cars of visitors out of the mud) for shows like traction engines, vans and lorries from bygone days, vintage cars as well as cars linked to celebrities fictional or real.

As a kid I was taken to what was then RAF Tangmere in what is now West Sussex to see flying displays and the aircraft. They were popular as are flight shows now. Why can’t they continue if social distancing can be managed? At least revenue from events like that would help them through until good times return.

Lots of airports have small museums or display areas attached to them. Using them as more than an associated feature of travel would seem a sensible thing to develop because sooner or later, owners are going to be forced to see whether there are too many airports for  a country of our geographical size!

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