25 AUGUST 2014

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Article from BTNews 25 AUGUST 2014

COMMENT: Which airport for you?

The consumer publication WHICH has published its annual UK airport passenger survey with typical publicity gusto.

BTN cannot argue with the results, the product of over 10,611 responses by members, but they are distorted in that a small, properly organised operation is generally bound to provide a better service than a large one. 

WHICH also misses a vital point. 

At the end of the day it is the airport that serves the greatest number of destinations that is the best.  Others may be prettier, and keep shopaholics happy, but an airport is for departures and arrivals, to as many places as possible.  Southend, the joint winner with Doncaster, is a fine operation, but moves only around one million passengers annually to 15 places (Doncaster 750,000 and nowhere daily).  London City, considered as small, is chasing 4 million by comparison (46 destinations), and Heathrow T5 flies 30 million passengers a year to 225 destinations.   Most national languages can be dealt with.  We are not sure about Southend.

And then you have to argue “do you consider the current five Heathrow terminals as separate airports?”  T5 is bigger than any other single airport in the country.  Somewhat surprisingly T4 comes out very well in the survey, but for the moment it is somewhat deserted with its two major US carriers for the most part absconding to the central area.

In the survey Southend came top for the second year running, jointly with Doncaster Sheffield both scoring an impressive 85% customer score.

What was not menioned was the 'tax' now being quietly added by some airports which they call 'a development fee'.  Every go-ahead business invests in the future but does not blatently demand it from its customers.  WHICH needs to look into this one.  Perhaps it should be noted on the booking web site. This way you can give a miss if you want and look for an alternative airport. (See Norwich Airport ownership)

WHICH rated airports on areas that matter the most to consumers, including pick-up and drop-off, seating provision, queues at security, passport control and baggage reclaim.  Southend airport managed to achieve a full 5-star rating in seven of the 10 categories.

The highest rated larger airport, Newcastle, only managed a customer score of 66%.  Luton remained grounded at 37% but it does have a new owner and has expansion approved.  Things can only get better.

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