The situation with Doncaster Sheffield Airport is highly complex and ever-changing. This inevitably makes it quite hard to keep track of all the relevant information, which is why your Chamber has prepared the following FAQ.
While it may not cover everything right now (as many details are still not clear), we will continue to update this page over time. For more immediate news, make sure to look out for our blogs and news pieces, where we will give you all the latest developments as they unfold.
A: Although Peel Group has commissioned a review into the viability of DSA, the site’s fate is not a forgone conclusion and all options remain on the table.
For instance, possible avenues that could be explored include: alternative ownership; public investment; or potentially shifting to alternative aviation activity.
Other activity on the site has been mooted, but this will be subject to changes in planning approvals. Peel have repeatedly asserted their long-term commitment to South Yorkshire in whatever guise it may take.
A: Peel Group initially announced the six-week review on Wednesday, 13th July. As it stands, this means that it is due to conclude on 24th August, at which point we will likely here more about the next steps.
As a Chamber of Commerce, we realise that any company has the right to think about changing direction, should their current business model be unsustainable.
With that said, there are legitimate reasons to question DSA’s commercial viability. Its operating losses were steep, even prior to the advent of COVID-19, and the pandemic has since exacerbated this issue. Total operating losses since the airport opened are in the vicinity of £250m.
Wizz Air reduced operations recently, leaving TUI as the principal remaining operator. This has obviously had an adverse effect on the number of passengers that come through on a daily basis. Current passengers are at 1m a year and received wisdom is that airports typically need 3 million passengers per annum to trade profitably.
Underpinning this whole debate is the commercial viability of DSA.
Meanwhile, a separate economic impact report (commissioned jointly by the Chamber and public and private sector partners) will look at the overall value that the airport brings to the region, beyond just its operating profits. Serving as an options appraisal, this report will be used to help us better understand what is at risk for the regional economy and community if the airport does close.
It will also tell us what further potential there may be for the site, so that we continue negotiations using facts and robust evidence and, potentially, to make the case for public investment into DSA.
A: Outside of passenger flights, freight is a core part of the business at DSA and there is much growth potential in this area.
DSA can accommodate the largest aircraft in the world and has played a key role in the movement of PPE & tests throughout the pandemic.
Not to mention, it handled 23,813 tonnes of freight in 2021, which is the 7th highest figure of all UK airports. Other aviation activity also takes place at DSA at this could continue to be a part of the airport’s future even if passenger activity ceased. Indeed, the loss of passenger activity might make it easier for Peel to explore other aviation related opportunities on the site.
A: As aforementioned, whilst it is not Peel’s currently preferred option, one of the potential outcomes of this review is that alternative ownership for DSA could be explored.
In the past, this solution saved Manston Airport (which was acquired for £16-20m), Cardiff Airport (£55m), and Teesside (£40m). Looking even further back, Exeter went for £60m and Bournemouth for over £30m, so there is a precedent for this kind of thing.
Bearing that in mind, if you are a potential credible investor in Doncaster Sheffield Airport, we urge you to please come forward and contact the Chamber or Business Doncaster for a more detailed discussion.
A: The Chamber is taking this situation very seriously and has been actively involved with conversations from Day 1, working to bring the relevant parties together so that an optimal solution can be found.
We have been playing a facilitative role throughout the crisis, and helped to establish the Negotiating Group (which is now liaising with Peel on a weekly basis). We also Co-Chair a Business Advisory Group - consisting of regional and national representative business organisations, firms on the airport estate, and others with expert knowledge – to feed into this.
Elsewhere, we proposed that an economic impact study be commissioned by the South Yorkshire Chambers and our regional partners, looking into the effect that shutting DSA would have for the wider community and its growth potential. Not only will this demonstrate that South Yorkshire is united behind this cause, but it will also help us negotiate using facts and robust evidence, rather than emotions.
We are also eager to work with any businesses that want to get involved, whether that’s volunteering to be media spokespeople or to potentially invest in the site. If that applies to you, then we would urge you to please come forward and get in touch.
The Change.Org petition makes a real difference, as it can be used to show the extent of public support for DSA. However, it is not an official parliamentary petition and so it won’t automatically trigger a debate after getting 100,000 signatures.
Instead, local MPs will be able to request an ‘adjournment debate’ about DSA once parliament returns from its summer recess in September. If you care about the fate of DSA, the petition is still well worth signing.