Staff member
Jan 12, 2009
In our forums we frequently discuss airport catchment area and what it means for individual airports to grow to their potential. We often see an overlap of catchment areas with most airports suffering to some extent depending on the routes served.

It is my belief price and availability overwhelmingly outweighs everything else but transport connections and location will play a part in every airports local and wider catchment area.

Map one example of the North of England is my interpretation of the Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds and Newcastle catchment area where each airport serves the same route with the same number of flights.

This example is where a route is served from three airports Liverpool, Leeds and Birmingham. Perhaps an airline like Wizz for example.
This is an example of what the Newcastle and Manchester airport catchment area might look like for Emirates Dubai service. Not shown with this example but the Manchester catchment would also be overlapped by the Emirates service at Birmingham.
This example shows where there is a disparity between each airport with availability. Each airport will have it's own one to two hours travel time and more importantly the conurbations they serve but if availability is restricted by the number of flights serving an airport then a neighbouring airport will excess availability is able to capitalise on this.
This example shows the catchment areas for Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds and Newcastle for flights to Tenerife.

Drive times are often quoted as the main reason for an airports catchment area and it is often used as an example to back up claims about an airports catchment area.

Looking at the three neighbouring airports Liverpool, Manchester and Leeds the data suggests the airports enjoy a similar drive time with a similar number of people available in their wider catchment areas.
It could be argued Leeds Bradford Airport shares less of it's 2 hour drive time catchment with neighbouring airports.

Arguably, Birmingham for example has a larger catchment area within the 2 hour drive time than Manchester airport with multiple conurbations within the 2 hour drive time.


Also worth noting here is how small the Cardiff airport catchment is in comparison with Bristol airport within the 2 hour drivetime.

The myths surrounding drive times to airports served by A roads such as Leeds and Bristol are clearly unfounded as those airports appear to be unaffected by the lack of motorway access.

#AirportCatchments #AirportDriveTime
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Here is the 2 hour drive time for closed Doncaster airport. Impressive until you look at the 1 hour drive time where you then realise it's core catchment was more limited.

I think Aviador is correct in that price and availability is key in the U.K. Airport market. I personally do not believe drive time is really a factor at all. We may complain about poor quality motorways and unreliable and expensive railways, but the vast majority of people living in England are blessed with choice. Invariably people will look at their local airport first, but when searching for flights and holidays most people will be cost conscious and most likely search for their desired destination leaving the ‘any departure airport’ filter on when looking to make a booking,

So which airports do well? Airports serving large Cities with economically strong populations are the best bet for an airline to base their operations as the risk of entry to market is low, this acts as a catalyst for further growth in the catchment area, as the larger the city region the more flights an airline is likely to put on, and therefore the greater pull it will have from a much larger radius owing to the availability of flights.

It’s why airports like MME, CWL, DSA struggle when compared to MAN, NCL, EMA, LBA and LPL for instance.

It’s why arguments over surface access are poor - only need to look on the various Save DSA sites to see that they think the airport was held back due to lack of rail access, but remember when the lack of a link road to the M18 was blamed for its poor performance? It got one, and then what happened..? Also like Aviador says, surface access to LBA and BRS is poor, yet they are still successful. It doesn’t really factor, only for the staff usually who have to make the journey every day. Road links to the major airports have largely been built in the response of demand not to generate it.

As with people who live in a small remote village having to travel further to reach a supermarket, people who live in smaller towns and cities will always be more likely to have to travel further for flight services. Just the basic nature of critical mass driving demand.
Further, Louise Congdon in one of the York Aviation reports summarises it quite well. Airports won’t fix an economy, rather they can be a reflection of the economy around them. So all this about airports regenerating regions is nonsense. They can support service sectors and industry but the industry has to be there first!

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