THE airline Flybe is dropping eight routes from its Southampton Airport services next summer.

The airport says the decision shows the need for a longer runway so a wider range of aircraft can use the site.

In a summer 2020 timetable due to be published today, Flybe is expected to have axed services to Malaga and Alicante in Spain, Mallorca’s capital Palma and Faro in Portugal.

It is also dropping four destinations in rural France – Biarritz, Nantes, Bordeaux and Bastia on the island of Corsica.

Neil Garwood, managing director of the airport, said: “Flybe is reducing its services next year, which is regrettable. However, this reinforces the case for us to invest in our runway, so that we can ensure that we are resilient to any future changes in the aviation market and can offer even more choice to our passengers.

“We are already having discussions with other airlines to backfill routes, and our plans for sustainable growth continue unaffected.

“This is not about lack of demand at Southampton Airport, far from it, this is about airline profitability.”

The changes come ahead of Flybe’s rebranding next year as Virgin Connect, following a £2.2million takeover by the Connect Airways consortium.

Southampton Airport’s masterplan envisages passenger numbers rising from two million in 2017 to five million in 2037. It recently submitted plans to extend its runway by 164 metres.

Mr Garwood said: “Every passenger disappointed by this news should support our planning application in order to ensure that the airport can provide the choice and connectivity our region needs.”

The Liberal Democrats’ prospective candidate for the target seat of Eastleigh, Lynda Murphy, has come out against the plan “after much deliberation”.

She said: “There is always a balance between trying to save the planet while keeping our local economy strong. However, in the case of Southampton Airport’s proposed runway expansion, I am really struggling to see how I can ever justify so many extra tonnes of unnecessary carbon use in my constituency.”

Her Conservative opposite number, Paul Holmes, called her stance “at best naive”, adding: “Southampton Airport is a hugely important local employer and without the proposed expansion, the long term security of the airport, and the jobs that come with it, are at risk.

“The expansion does need to be built sensitively in terms of noise and air quality and I will work constructively with Southampton Airport to ensure this happens.”

Cllr Keith House, Lib Dem leader of Eastleigh Borough Council, said: “Lynda is absolutely right to raise climate emergency concerns about aviation. These will be looked at very carefully by councillors when any planning application is put before them.”

Flybe has stressed it will be increasing the frequency of its services between Southampton and Edinburgh, Newcastle and Paris Charles de Gaulle. There will be five flights a day to the Scottish capital, including a new early morning departure, four day to Newcastle and three every weekday to Charles de Gaulle, with two flights on Sundays.

Connect Airways’ chief executive, Mark Anderson, said: “The schedule includes many of our most popular high frequency services with better timings to accommodate our frequent fliers as well as new flights from London Southend airport.”

He added: “This schedule strengthens Flybe’s commitment to providing unparalleled connectivity from regional airports to destinations across the UK, Europe and beyond.”


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