Is Doncaster Sheffield Airport closing? What owners Peel Group said about DSA’s future - statement in full

A strategic review discussing the future of Doncaster Sheffield Airport has ended

A decision on the future of Doncaster Sheffield Airport has been made by owners Peel Group.

Following consultation, Peel said there was “regretfully, no tangible proposals” put forward to save the airport from closure.

Peel will begin to wind down operations at the old RAF Finningley airbase, initially called Robin Hood Airport when it opened in 2005, from the end of October 2022.

In mid-July (2022), Peel launched a six-week consultation period to see if operations from DSA would still be commercially viable - which was extended until mid-September.

This is why DSA was under threat - and why it will close.

Doncaster Sheffield Airport.

Advertisement

Why is Doncaster Sheffield Airport under threat? 

Peel launched a “review of strategic options” and issued a statement which said the review “follows lengthy deliberations by the board of DSA which has reluctantly concluded that aviation activity on the site may no longer be commercially viable”.

In its initial statement, it said that DSA never achieved a critical mass of passengers to become profitable, which was amplified by the withdrawal of Wizz Air, leaving the airport with Tui as the only base carrier.

The firm said the “challenge has been increased by other changes in the aviation market, the well-publicised impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and increasingly important environmental considerations”.

It said: “It has therefore been concluded that aviation activity may no longer be the use for the site which delivers the maximum economic and environmental benefit to the region.”

Robert Hough, chairman of Peel Airports Group, previously said: “It is a critical time for aviation globally. Despite pandemic-related travel restrictions slowly drawing to a close, we are still facing ongoing obstacles and dynamic long-term threats to the future of the aviation industry.

Advertisement

“The actions by Wizz to sacrifice its base at Doncaster to shore up its business opportunities at other bases in the South of England are a significant blow for the airport.”

What has Peel Group said on Doncaster Sheffield Airport’s closure?

In a statement issued on 26 September, Peel announced the strategic review had ended.

It continued: “Regretfully, no tangible proposals have been received regarding the ownership of the airport or which address the fundamental lack of financial viability. The high fixed costs associated with running a safe, regulated airport, together with recent events materially reducing prospective future aviation income streams, mean that a break-even business plan cannot be identified for the foreseeable future.

“As a result, DSA will begin winding down the provision of aviation services during the week commencing Monday, 31 October 2022. DSA will continue to work closely with airport customers and other users to explain the impact of this service reduction and work with them to minimise the disruption to their operations and customers.

Advertisement

“Since the July 2022 announcement of the Strategic Review, Peel has been actively engaging on a weekly basis with local and national political stakeholders, including proactively engaging with working group meetings, primarily led by officers at Doncaster Council, South Yorkshire Mayoral Combined Authority (SYMCA) and the Department for Transport (DfT).

"Throughout the consultation process up until today, Peel has also been in close contact with the airlines and other aviation users of the Airport. None of these discussions has delivered any tangible results that have changed the Board of DSA or Peel’s clear view that the Airport is and will remain unviable.

“Peel received a letter from the Mayor of South Yorkshire and Mayor of Doncaster on Thursday, 8 September, stating that they had completed an economic impact study of DSA which identified its economic benefit to the region but provided no solution to its lack of financial viability.

"Furthermore, they informed Peel that they had been approached by a group interested in purchasing or operating the airport. Peel has yet to receive a response to urgent requests for details on the consortium's identity, nor have the terms of any proposal or evidence of the consortium's financial standing or aviation expertise been provided.

Advertisement

“On Friday, 23 September, Peel received a further letter from SYMCA and Doncaster Council, which was supported by the Mayor of South Yorkshire and the Mayor of Doncaster, along with the Leaders of Barnsley and Rotherham, which included a proposal to provide public money to DSA to fund its operating losses until 31 October 2023. The grant was described as providing DSA with free cashflow to sustain losses that may occur over thirteen months while the Peel Group and South Yorkshire partners jointly explore the future potential of DSA and the GatewayEast site.

"In the absence of any actual proposals to address the lack of viability of DSA, even those at an early stage of development, or any identified potential acquirers or operators of DSA, Peel’s Board has concluded that it cannot responsibly accept public money for this highly uncertain process against the backdrop of an unviable, loss-making operating business.”

Which airlines will be impacted by the closure? 

DSA is one of two international commercial airports in Yorkshire, the other being Leeds Bradford, and in 2019 handled 1.4 million passengers.

In June 2022, airline operator Wizz Air announced that it was quitting the airport, making Tui the sole carrier.

As of 24 August 2022, Wizz Air and Tui are still departing from DSA to cities such as Kos, Antalya and Vilnius.

Advertisement

Other airlines operating from the airport are GetJet Airlines, SmartLynx. The airport is also set to host cargo operations.