South Yorkshire international hub Doncaster Sheffield Airport opened in 2005. Over the past 17 years, it grew to a maximum of 1.4 million passengers and acted as the main hub for those flying off on holiday on low-cost airlines. 

Now, the airport is in danger of closing for good by this year. 

Is the end near? 

By the end of October this year, Doncaster Sheffield Airport (affectionally known as Robin Hood Airport) could close for good unless a new owner is found. 

While many issues contributed to the decline of the Yorkshire airport, one situation that almost certainly sped up its decline was the departure of Wizz Air, allowing concerns to grow that the airport may no longer be “commercially viable”. 

Wizz Air
Hungarian low-cost carrier Wizz Air withdrew from Doncaster Sheffield after failing to secure guarantees over commercial agreements at the airport. | © _M. Penner

Bosses have therefore announced a strategic review into the airport and its options. Doncaster Sheffield’s owner, the Peel Group, will be an instrumental part of these talks.

Robert Hough is Chairman of Peel Airports Group. He commented on this precarious time for the airport:

“It is a critical time for aviation globally. Despite pandemic-related travel restrictions slowly drawing to a close, we are still facing ongoing obstacles and dynamic long-term threats to the future of the aviation industry.”

He continued:

“The actions by Wizz to sacrifice its base at Doncaster to shore up its business opportunities at other bases in the South of England are a significant blow for the Airport. Now is the right time to review how DSA can best create future growth opportunities for Doncaster and for South Yorkshire.” 

As of now, Doncaster Sheffield will be operating as normal and passengers due to travel should proceed as normal. 

The gradual decline of Doncaster Sheffield 

While Wizz Air departing – leaving only one base career in the form of TUI – was the heavy straw that broke the camel’s back, Doncaster Sheffield has been struggling for a while. 

Despite large amounts of investment in the airport’s infrastructure and facilities have taken place since the Peel Group acquired the site in 1999 and converted it into an international airport, and regardless of promising growth in passenger numbers, Doncaster Sheffield never achieved the traffic required to become profitable. 

Since opening to commercial airlines in 2005, the airport reportedly lost £170 million and currently anticipates a further £45 million loss in the next five years. 

And, as mentioned earlier, the departure of Wizz Air made this even worse as the airport was left with only one base carrier – TUI. 

TUI
German carrier TUI is the only remaining carrier that uses Robin Hood Airport as a base. | © Nicolas Economou / NurPhoto via Getty Images

The location of Doncaster Sheffield also hasn’t helped. Most travellers are also in range of larger airports East Midlands and Leeds Bradford. If you cast the net out even further, travellers can reach Manchester and Birmingham Airports without much of a headache. 

This didn’t help the airport cope with maintaining consistent airline growth and achieving sustainable passenger numbers that didn’t suffer from bouts of fluctuation on the high and low ends.

According to data from the Civil Aviation Authority, Doncaster’s best year was 2019 (when it achieved 1.4 million passengers). That year, it was the UK’s 21st busiest airport but only responsible for 0.5% of UK passengers. 

What’s next?

The airport likely needs a new owner to survive. From there, the matter is speculative. However, if the airport does not overcome this and is forced to close, its location means that it will likely become a logistics and warehouse facility. 

What do you make of this news? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.

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