Future of Doncaster Sheffield Airport in doubt, owner Peel Group announces

 Doncaster Sheffield Airport lit up in colour
Doncaster Sheffield Airport Credit: flydsa

The future of Doncaster Sheffield Airport (DSA) has been thrown into doubt after bosses said the business "may no longer be commercially viable".

DSA's owner, the Peel Group, said a combination of the impact of the coronavirus pandemic and a shortfall in passenger numbers had been exacerbated by the announcement in June that operator Wizz Air was quitting the airport. Tui is now the sole carrier.

Chairman Robert Hough 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. 

"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."

Since the Peel Group acquired the site in 1999 and converted it into an international commercial airport, which opened in 2005, it said it had invested significant amounts of money.

But it said, despite growth in passenger numbers, DSA had "never achieved the critical mass required to become profitable".

Wizz Air announced it was leaving the airport in June. Credit: PA

Along with the pandemic and "increasingly important environmental considerations" the company said it had concluded that "aviation activity may no longer be the use for the site which delivers the maximum economic and environmental benefit to the region".

It would now carry out a review on how best to "maximise and capitalise on future economic growth opportunities".  

Mr Hough said: "Now is the right time to review how DSA can best create future growth opportunities for Doncaster and for South Yorkshire.

"The Peel Group remains committed to delivering economic growth, job opportunities and prosperity for Doncaster and the wider region."

The company said the airport would operate as normal while a review was carried out and passengers should plan for their journeys as normal.

Business leaders in South Yorkshire expressed consternation at the news. The chambers of commerce for Doncaster, Rotherham and Sheffield issued a joint statement, criticising the government, which it said had "not done enough to support the industry throughout the global pandemic".

"Much more should have been done to ensure the sector had sufficient resilience to bounce back," they said.

They added: "If aviation activity at Doncaster Sheffield Airport ends or scales back, this would be another major blow to the region's infrastructure after several others, including the axing of our planned HS2 connection and rail services from South Yorkshire to Manchester Airport.

"The evidence is well-established that international connectivity underpins inward investment."

A government spokesperson said it understood the concern about the announcement.

They said: "While this will be a commercial decision for the owners of the airport, we hope they conclude after consultation with stakeholders that there is a viable aviation future for the airport.

"Regional airports are key in serving our local communities, supporting thousands of jobs in the regions and act asa key gateway to international opportunities. We will continue to bring forward our plans to level up and ensure the whole of the UK has the connections people need."