PASSENGER numbers have plunged by more than 715,000 people at Southampton Airport in just six months.

Between March and August this year the total number of passenger has dropped by 715,464.

The falling numbers “highlight the stark challenge” facing the industry, say aviation bosses.

Daily Echo: Departures area at Southampton AirportDepartures area at Southampton Airport

Welcoming 145,116 air travellers overall, it is an 83 per cent decrease from the year before which saw 860,580 passengers pass through in the same period.

At the height of the coronavirus lockdown in April passenger numbers dropped by a staggering 99 per cent to a mere 1,172 when compared to 147,209 the same month last year.

Brexit blamed for fall in flights at Southampton Airport As measures eased these figures have crept slowly up to 11,744 passengers in August.

However, despite being peak holiday season this is still a 94 per cent drop from 189,732 in August last year.

Daily Echo: Air transport movementsAir transport movements

Made with Flourish

Operations director at the Hampshire airport, Steve Szalay has described the impact of covid as devastating.

He says the widespread grounding of flights and travel restrictions has resulted in sharp decreases in passenger numbers at airports.

The figures from the Civil Aviation Authority show how air transport movements - landings or take-offs of aircraft used to transport of passengers, cargo - have decreased.

Daily Echo: Operations director at Southampton Airport, Steve SzalayOperations director at Southampton Airport, Steve Szalay

Again, in April dropping by 96 per cent from 2,694 movements last year to just 99 this year.

Daily Echo: Southampton Airport: Terminal and transit passengers Southampton Airport: Terminal and transit passengers

Made with Flourish

Steve said: “The passenger figures highlight the stark challenge facing our industry. Prior to the onset of the Coronavirus pandemic, which has had a devastating impact on aviation, Southampton was dealing with the collapse of Flybe which operated 80% of our routes. The subsequent widespread grounding of flights and travel restrictions resulted in sharp decreases in passenger numbers at airports throughout the UK and Southampton was no different.

"During the first four months of the pandemic, passenger numbers at UK airports were as much as 99% down compared to the previous year. While some flights have resumed, and airlines now have started more regular schedules, the current unpredictability of the travel corridors policy, the 14-day quarantine and the effect this has had on consumer confidence is inhibiting any form of recovery.

Daily Echo: Grounded Flybe flight at Southampton Airport on Thursday, March 5Grounded Flybe flight at Southampton Airport on Thursday, March 5

According to Steve, the runway extension is absolutely essential to securing the long term future of the airport.

He added: “With the impact to employment from this pandemic already weighing heavy, we can do something to secure the jobs at the airport by getting this extension built. If we don’t, the reality is that more than 2,000 jobs will be at risk, creating a huge knock-on impact on thousands of local households.

"A connected regional airport is vital to the recovery of the regional economy. Our region needs a successful airport that can provide strong air connectivity. The extra length of runway will enable us to bring in the routes and airlines needed to drive the recovery of the economy and support local business and trade.”