Taking flight

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THOSE plotting to venture overseas this Christmas have two conundrums to ponder. Firstly, can they still afford a winter break in these challenging times? And, secondly, do they use one of this region’s three airports – or take advantage of the greater range of flights from Manchester and Newcastle?

Given this, few will be surprised that Leeds Bradford International Airport has posted a loss of £10m plus, though bosses are keen to attribute this to poor weather and costs associated with its long-awaited improvements. Despite this, they say, the facility remains one of the fastest-growing in the UK.

Yet, given that this loss was accrued on a turnover of £21m, it illustrates the scale of LBA’s challenge if it is to meet the ambitious targets that underpin its £11m improvement scheme, which is more modest in size than its original plans.

There are two recurring issues that are allied to this. First, the passenger experience at LBA does not compare favourably to the quality of service offered at rival airports.

This has been amply illustrated by the furore over the introduction of drop-off charges – even taxis driving passengers to LBA were not exempt from a policy that was introduced with little thought to the airport’s reputation.

Second, while the current owners cannot be blamed for the airport’s poor geographical location, it is still quicker for passengers in some parts of Leeds to travel across the Pennines to Manchester than make their way on congested roads to Yeadon, either by car or bus. As such, plans to rectify this need accelerating.

Passengers just about tolerate a second-class service on the railway because they have no choice. Yet, when it comes to flying, they do have alternatives – they can holiday at home or travel from an airport that offers a better service. It’s time that LBA recognised this.