On September 26th, Doncaster Sheffield announced that it would close. It follows a strategic review into the viability and future of the UK airport that started in July. The decision seemed inevitable and expected. It means the end of the airport for passenger airlines, freight carriers, bizjets, flight training, and much more. The airport site will be turned into a logistics and warehousing complex.
Doncaster Sheffield is closing
Not helped by its location relatively close to multiple other airports, including Manchester, East Midlands, and Leeds Bradford, Doncaster Sheffield will soon be no more. Robert Hough, Chairman of Peel Airports Group, Doncaster’s owner, said that:
“We recognize that this will come as a great disappointment to many… The problem remains the fundamental and insufficient lack of current or prospective revenue streams, together with the airport’s high operating costs.”
Like many airports, Doncaster Sheffield is more than ‘just’ passenger flights. It is also home to this 39-year-old Oil Spill Response B727F. Photo: Jonathan Winton Photography via Flickr .
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No public money
Steven Underwood, CEO of the Peel Group, said that:
“We will not accept any public sector grant [i.e., government funding] to cover the costs of an airport that is not viable due to its lack of adequate forward revenues and high operating costs.”
The airport was offered public funds to keep it going for the next year. It came after the Prime Minster, Liz Truss, called on the airport to remain open. And it followed comments in July by the then Transport Secretary, who suggested it could be taken over by the local authority.
Previously, the airport said it has accumulated losses of £170 million and anticipates a further £45 million loss in the next five years. The closure of Wizz Air UK’s base at the airport didn’t help, nor did the “lack of critical mass,” as Doncaster Sheffield previously put it; i.e., it had an insufficient passenger (and freight) volume.
When writing, these flights are airborne to/from Doncaster Sheffield. Highlighted is TUI flight BY435 from Dalaman. Image: Flightradar24 .
Had planned £10m+ investment
Despite a lack of critical mass, Doncaster Sheffield unveiled a £10 million terminal expansion project in January 2020, along with plans for a train line and more. Clearly, it was previously sufficiently ambitious and saw an adequately bright future, particularly with Wizz Air’s base, which opened later that year.
While COVID has obviously had a significant impact since then – in July 2022, passenger numbers were at 83% of what they were in 2019 – but that’s just one part of its existence. The likely reality is that, as a business, Peel expects to earn more money from changing the site’s use.
The airport opened to passengers in 2005. Because of its former life as an RAF station, it has a long runway (9,491 feet, 2,893 meters). Photo: alh1 via Flickr .
TUI, Wizz Air, and BH Air
For most airports, passengers are just one part of their overall operation. That’s no different at Doncaster Sheffield. Only TUI, Wizz Air, and BH Air currently serve the airport. However, Flybe, Ryanair, easyJet, Aer Lingus, and Lynx Air have all come and gone.
With five based aircraft, TUI is by far the biggest operator. It has a good-sized route network, including long-haul using non-based B787-8s, but has now pulled all winter sales.
Meanwhile, Wizz Air has eight routes from Central and Eastern Europe (CEE). After its short-lived base experiment, it has fully reverted to its long-standing CEE network. Finally, BH Air has one summer-seasonal route to Burgas.
On September 26th, Flightradar24 shows that Doncaster Sheffield has 34 take-offs and landings by TUI and Wizz Air. On the 27th, there will be 21.
Source of data: the UK CAA.
15 million airline passengers
Doncaster Sheffield was previously known as RAF Finningley. Helped by the end of Sheffield City Airport, Doncaster Sheffield became a commercial airport 17 years ago in 2005.
Between 2005 and 2021, the UK CAA shows that 14.9 million passengers passed through its doors. Not surprisingly, its best year was 2019, when it was the UK’s 22nd busiest airport, one place ahead of Exeter. Some 1.4 million were transported, but only 400,000 more than in 2007 – 12 years earlier. This highlights the difficulty facing the airport.
What do you make of the decision to close? Have you flown from the airport? Let us know in the comments.