Is it time to look again at trying to drive additional airlift out of the United Kingdom with a direct flight to one of the Scottish airports?
Despite the manifesto promise of the Scottish National Party, the £50 reduction in the Advance Passenger Tax (APD) and the eventual removal of what many consider this counter product levy did not take place, and we understand that discussions are still in progress to implement this commitment, possibly as early as April 2019.
Of the airport choices, the overwhelming favourite to me would be Prestwick with its capacity, almost fog free location and adjacent rail station offering easy access with real possibilities of negotiating lower landing fees and other related charges.
In fact Prestwick is the only major airport in Scotland to have an attached airport offering the seamless connecting possibilities from towns and cities that include Glasgow, Edinburgh, Motherwell, Troon, Irvine, North Berwick and Ayr.
This is very important considering the airport management who are currently offering passengers free rail travel to airless launching new routes for six months, with a 50 per cent reduction afterwards.
In comparison with other airports, long stay car parking charges are very reasonable, at around £38 per week or £58 per fortnight, with exceptional facilities for the disabled.
With 2.1 million people living within an hour’s drive of Prestwick International, that is an important consideration. For more remote residents, some nearby hotels offer free car parking and some offer either no or low cost airport shuttle facilities.
Rightly or wrongly, the Scots have a long time reputation for being careful with their money, so any marketing or promotional campaign must take this into account and clearly demonstrate that we can offer value-for-money.
A Barbadian with a long association in tourism, currently residing in Scotland, recently suggested that a group of our south coast smaller hotels put a slow season initiative in place to attract a possible charter or scheduled airline. He seemed to think around an average of US$80 per room per night, was a good starting point which could allow for a retail selling price of around GB Pounds 600 per person, based on two sharing a room for 7 nights and GB Pounds 800 for 14 nights and a net return flight cost of around GB Pounds 350.
Nothing is without risk, so it would be critical to attract as many smart partners as possible to help mitigate the possibility of flying empty seats. But this is quite normal as our national marketing agencies currently provides financial support to many airline partners, whatever name is given to it.
Now assuming the concept has merit, which airlines are the most likely
to work with us?
With a new generation of smaller jetliners giving extended reach coming online over the next two or three years, it is not now even a prerequisite that we approach one of the traditional long haul air operators.
Prestwick to Barbados is 4,131miles (Great Circle routing), a shorter geographical distance than Gatwick or Heathrow.
Perhaps our tourism planners and policymakers should draw up a short list and bounce the idea off a select group of possible airline companies who are looking to expand their route network and can comprehend the potential.