FlyBE is threatening to pull out of Liverpool Airport due to dissappointing loads and a lack of interest from the business community.
They could pull out of the airport as soon as the end of October according to reports.
FlyBE withdrew their LPL-GLA service due to dissappointing loads in July and it would appear other routes are now doing no better.
News Article from a local paper:
YOU'VE GOT AN AIRPORT. NOW USE IT!
Oct 19 2005
Is Liverpool's business community still locked into a Manchester mindset when it comes to air travel? Tony McDonough reports
LIVERPOOL John Lennon Airport has enjoyed an unbroken run of good news in recent months as the number of scheduled services rises fast.
But this apparently inexorable rise in traffic could be undermined by a failure to attract business travellers to domestic and some European routes.
Flybe's cancellation of services out of Liverpool John Lennon Airport (JLA), and the threat to its remaining services, has caused alarm among Merseyside's business leaders.
Story continues Continue story
Flybe claims that business people in Merseyside are neglecting its routes and making them unviable. Too many local business people have not got out of the habit of using Manchester Airport, even though many destinations are served by Liverpool.
The carrier has already axed its services to Glasgow and Edinburgh and has said its remaining routes to Exeter, Belfast City, Jersey and Southampton were now under "urgent review".
Mark Basnett, director of investment at The Mersey Partnership (TMP), is so worried about events that he held a meeting last week with the chief executive of JLA, Neil Pakey, and senior executives from Flybe.
When the Daily Post launched its Fight for a Flight campaign in 2003, the response from the business community was immediate and overwhelming.
The campaign fought to restore the air link between Liverpool and London and in December of that year - just three months after the campaign began - Belgian carrier VLM announced it was setting up a five-times-a-day return service to London City Airport.
That route has largely been seen as a success although ambitions to increase the frequency of the flights have yet to be realised, with fierce competition now coming from Virgin's much improved rail link with the capital.
When the service began in February last year business and political leaders joined forces to push the "use it or lose it" message.. While this has been heeded for the VLM service, there appears to be a reluctance to fully utilise some of the 40-plus other routes out of JLA, particularly the Flybe services.
Mr Basnett asked business people across the region to put forward their views on domestic air travel out of JLA. He wanted to gauge levels of awareness of routes, fare levels, convenience of the timetables, access to the airport, check-in procedures and retail, catering and executive lounge facilities.
Story continues Continue story
"We undertook a consultation exercise with local business and three major issues came out of that," said Mr Basnett.
"The first thing was the level of awareness among businesses about the services. In some cases company travel policies have not been updated to include new routes on their approved destinations lists. This is actually encouraging because it suggests something can be done.
"Secondly, there was an issue with flight timings. Business people really want services that allow them to travel in the early morning and return in the evening.
"The third key issue was frequency of service. One return flight a day really doesn't give you much scope in terms of flexibility of business travel. If there were no other means of travel then people would have to use it. But there are alternatives.
"The encouraging thing is that we are picking up a strong propensity in the business community to use these services but the times and frequencies have to be right.
"We are going to work to raise the profile of the services across the business network. We have to use them if we want to keep them and I think we all have our part to play in this."
Flybe's head of marketing, Simon Lilley, attended the meeting with Mr Basnett last week. He acknowledged the high level of support both from the airport and TMP but admitted decisions about keeping or cancelling routes still came down to hard economics.
Low-cost airlines rely on high load factors to make their services pay. Load factor is the percentage of seats filled and budget airlines typically require figure a figure of 80% or more to make a route viable. The target load factor for full service airlines like VLM or British Airways tends to be nearer 60%
"We operate routes from several airports around the UK and our business model differs from those of Easyjet and Ryanair in that it is aimed much more at the business traveller," said Mr Lilley..
He insists the airline was constantly looking at schedules and the frequency of its services but added it was still not happy with the performance of the remaining Liverpool routes.
"We just don't seem to be getting enough business traffic on the routes," he said.
Peter Kenworthy, the commercial director of VLM, agrees with Mr Basnett's view that the frequency of a service can be vital to its success or failure.
He said: "I think the difference with VLM is that we are operating a high frequency service. Routes that do not offer this are going to struggle to attract enough business passengers.
Story continues Continue story
"This is particularly true for Liverpool when there is the option of more frequent services out of Manchester.
"Our route from Liverpool is five-times-a-day Monday to Friday and we would see that as necessary to make the route work. Obviously, the morning and evening flights are always busier than those in the middle of the day."
VLM itself has seen its recent year-on-year passenger figures fall as Virgin Trains' service to London has greatly improved but insisted the carrier's business plan had taken this into account.
He added: "This time last year there were big problems on the trains and this gave us a bit of a honeymoon period. The recent improvement on Virgin has had an impact on our passenger levels.
"However, just a few weeks ago we took part in an experiment to find out which was quicker to London - ourselves or Virgin Trains. Despite the fact the finishing point was near to Euston Station, we still won.
"When people use our service for the first time they usually end up loving it because they realise how easy it is to get to central London from London City Airport."
A recent survey by Barclaycard revealed that more than 80% of UK chief executives now fly on low-cost airlines for business trips.
Neil Pakey,chief executive of Liverpool John Lennon Airport said: "It would seem that a large number of Liverpool and Merseyside businesses are yet to wake up to the savings that can be made in using the wide range of low cost services now available at our local airports.
"One business traveller I met recently had travelled from Manchester to Southampton. On asking why he didn't use the Liverpool John Lennon Airport (JLA) flight on Flybe, he suspected it was because the company's travel agent who booked it didn't know about it.
"Similarly, a traveller from the public sector went to Warsaw via Manchester, paying a lot more than our Wizz Air service from Liverpool. It makes no sense.
"The traditional way for companies booking travel was to book through a single source, paying premium prices, including commission. Nowadays, more and more UK businesses are saving more money simply by booking travel directly on the internet themselves, or in insisting that their corporate travel agents book certain flights or operators.
"This is allowing a lot more travel for the budget or significantly reduced travel budgets. However, in Merseyside, local firms do not seem to be taking full advantage of the near-50 destinations available from JLA.
"Perhaps businesses in Merseyside simply do not have the same need to travel than businesses in Leeds, Manchester or Newcastle? I can't believe that.
"At JLA we are making major strides forward in getting our city connected with major business centres. The leisure market is eagerly booking on these routes but businesses do seem slower to respond.
"More businesses on some of our routes, like Southampton, Cardiff and Aberdeen, are coming from the other end into Liverpool rather than Liverpool passengers going out.
"If you are travelling soon on business, check to see why you have not been offered a low-cost flight. Then perhaps we will become more clever with our travel policies and more than 80% of Liverpool chief executives may choose to fly low-cost airlines for business."
[Edited 2005-10-20 09:40:55]