LONDON – Late last night saw TUI operate the final flight out of Doncaster Airport, before its full closure by the Peel Group, with a tribute callsign of TOM1DSA.
G-TAWW was the Boeing 737-8K5 that operated the positioning flight from Doncaster on a very short hop into Manchester Airport, where the aircraft will be based for the time being.
The flight took around 28 minutes to complete and was one that, for those based out of Doncaster, would be quite emotional about.
Doncaster Sheffield Airport (DSA) confirmed back in late September that it will start “winding down” its operations as the business now has no future.
Major Loss For Local Community
The airport employs over 800 people and indirectly offers 2,700 jobs with its supply chain, but with the airport now set to close and the UK already suffering economic hardships, the job losses could be even higher than this with many support companies and roles around the airport, such as taxi’s and buses will now have no need for their additional services to the airport.
While there is no confirmed date for the closure of the airport, it is believed that flights will start to be winding down from October 31, with the airport committed to fulfilling its summer travelers commitments and allowing people time to make additional travel arrangements if needed.
Chairman of Peel Airports Group Robert Hough, who spoke to ITV News, said: “We recognize that this will come as a great disappointment to many. The intractable problem remains the fundamental and insufficient lack of current or prospective revenue streams, together with the airport’s high operating costs.
“Our employees have always been DSA’s greatest asset, and we are grateful to them all, past and present, for their dedication and diligence over the years. The immediate priority remains to continue engaging closely with them over the next few weeks.
“As such, DSA will now begin a formal process of consulting with team members. We will do everything we can to minimize the impact of these proposals and work closely with local authorities and agencies to support our employees through what we know will be an extremely difficult period.”
What Went Wrong
It has all been a bit of a whirlwind for the airport, with the collapse of carriers such as Flybe and Thomas Cook, and Wizz Air pulling out its services, mixed with COVID-19, saw the airport dwindle in passenger numbers and operators, with TUI now the only carrier still bases at DSA.
It is understood that on Friday, September 23, the South Yorkshire Mayoral Combined Authority (SYMCA) made an offer of public money to allow the airport to remain open until October next year, with a private consortium interested in purchasing the airport and time needing to be made to allow the deal to go through.
However, after the Peel group, who had been carrying out a strategic review of the airport’s operations since July, said it was only going to “delay the inevitable”
Peel Group chief executive Steven Underwood said to ITV News: “Accepting funds from SYMCA may postpone the inevitable for another 13 months, but it will divert funds away from services on which communities throughout South Yorkshire rely.”
A statement from the Peel Group said: “The high fixed costs associated with running a safe, regulated airport, together with recent events materially reducing prospective future aviation income streams, mean that a break-even business plan cannot be identified for the foreseeable future.”
What Is Next For DSA?
Well, that remains unclear for now, as until we have the confirmed closure date of the airport, lots can change in the time that takes place between now and then; while it is clear that the UK will yet again lose another of its airports, it is probably not likely that we will see it turned into a house development site.
Mr. Underwood said the company was working to develop a “forward-thinking strategy for the airport site, in conjunction with the £1.7 billion Gateway East development next door, to help unlock vibrant, job-creating alternatives to ensure future growth and prosperity.”
He added: “We have the potential to attract cutting-edge, future-tech businesses to South Yorkshire, but only if we are able to collaborate with our local stakeholders and community in South Yorkshire.”
For now, all the local community can do is wait; with greater and greater uncertainty now filling the area with local jobs and businesses now at greater risk, only time will tell how many will survive by making the changes they will need to make to find new business.