Growth Spurt for UK's Midlands Airports

The Airport Property Market names Coventry as top in the UK for freight expansion and ninth in Europe for passenger growth.


Birmingham International and Coventry airports are two of the fastest-growing in Europe, according to a new report.

The Airport Property Market from King Sturge names Coventry as top in the UK for freight expansion and ninth in Europe for passenger growth, while Birmingham International is rated second in the UK and fifth in Europe for burgeoning freight.

"Increased passenger numbers are currently being boosted by the boom in low-cost carriers which continues to be fuelled by the seemingly insatiable demand for cheap flights to holiday destinations," said Chris Monk, who is partner in charge of King Sturge in the West Midlands.

"As far as the future is concerned, there is no doubt that climate change policy and regulation will have an increasing impact on aviation activity.

"However, it will be interesting to see whether security concerns reduce demand for air transport significantly or whether airport operators increase their demand for space to accommodate more staff, equipment and much larger holding areas for passengers."

Other changes could also be on the cards .

"Because low-cost carriers have to drive down costs, they are famously tough when it comes to negotiating the rent of airport facilities.

"If airports continue to offer the same facilities to low-cost carriers as to all other airlines, there will be inevitably be a mismatch in terms of the cost and quality of service provision to differing airline companies.

"It will be intriguing to see how airport operators respond to this," said Mr Monk, who pointed to Marseille Provence Airport in France where a new terminal opened last September.

The result is that fitted carpets are replaced by coloured concrete; there is an air-cooling system instead of air-conditioning; instead of gangways there are two staircases per plane - and passengers take their own baggage from the hold to a security checkpoint.

"It is argued that such measures make it possible to reduce the passenger tax for a European flight, which is currently six euros in the traditional terminal, to 1.30 euros and to reduce the costs of the airline companies that operate there," added Mr Monk.

The annual survey confirms that in the wake of particularly strong performances passenger volumes at UK regional airports have doubled from 47 million in 1995 to 95 million in 2005.

Mr Monk said: "Coventry has entered the 'league table' of Europe's Top Ten fastest-growing passenger airports for the first time on the back of an impressive 55.6 per cent increase, which took its total number of passengers in 2005 to 718,845.

"But it has shown that it is now also taking off as far as the freight sector is concerned. Coming from a low base figure in 2004, it handled 6,142 tonnes of freight in 2005 - an 86 per cent increase on the previous year."

The more modest 31,4 percent rise for Birmingham International, taking its total tonnage to 12,939, was enough, however, to confirm its status as the fifth fastest-growing European freight airport, behind Vatry-Chalons-en-Champagne, Riga, Frankfurt Hahn and Zagreb.

It is at or near airports that provide facilities for dedicated freight aircraft, such as Birmingham International and Coventry, that demand for commercial property is high.

"Strong growth forecast in the express parcel sector, which requires a round-the-clock operation so that next-day delivery requirements can be met, will make airports offering this type of service particularly attractive," said Mr Monk.

Prime industrial and warehouse facilities in the vicinity of Birmingham International can command between pounds 5.75 to pounds 6 per sq ft, while prime office rents are pounds 20 per sq ft.

stevepain@mrn.co.uk

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