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« Blackballed | Main | KLM-Manston: reactions »

KLM-Manston: analysis

Regular readers will recall that the last time KLM showed any interest in Manston, they were being lured by the promise of £600,000 - money which Manston and KCC were trying to prise out of the Government's Regional Growth Fund. The Government said "No", and KLM faded into the background. I do hope this new service isn't being subsidised from the public purse (national, county or district).

Air France-KLM's long-term strategy is to bravely accept the fact that can't afford to compete with BA for the valuable and expensive slots at Heathrow. Instead, they will subvert and bypass Heathrow's position by funnelling regional traffic (which would otherwise go to Heathrow) to their own hubs at Amsterdam Schiphol and Paris Charles de Gaulle. I suppose this is one solution to the much-discussed problem of air capacity in south-east England - simply export or outsource it to continental Europe.


One major advantage that the KLM timetable has over, for example, the FlyBe Edinburgh timetable, is that it allows passengers to make same day return journeys. This is a key feature for most business travellers. Of course, one of the morning flights leaves at 6.35am - permissible only because of a loophole in the appallingly drafted Section 106 agreement (between the Council and the airport operator, that defines how the airport operates).

The S106 forbids scheduled flights before 7am, unless they are going to Europe or the USA, in which case they banned before 6am. This is stupid - Europe is ahead of GMT, America is behind, but the same time shift is allowed for both. And, of course, it makes no difference to the tens of thousands of people who live under the flight path where any particular plane is going - it's the time of day that matters, and whether it's disrupting their lives and businesses.


Thanks to the instant wizardry of the internet and flight comparison sites like Expedia, everyone can be their own travel agent. It's easy to compare just how expensive and convenient any flight is in comparison to all the others available. As I've explained, Air France-KLM's strategy is to channel people through their own hubs, which may be great for them, but isn't so jolly for the passengers...

  • Flying to Faro in Portugal would take 10½ hours from Manston, but 3½ hours from the (competing) London airports.
  • Flying to Cape Town in South Africa would take 25 hours, as opposed to 12 hours from the (competing) London airports.
  • Flying to Brisbane in Australia would take 35 hours instead of 23 hours from the (competing) London airports.

The extra time is spent sitting in airports, eating airport food, and eating into valuable holiday time. Even if the potential passengers of east Kent don't realise this before they book, the odds are it's not a mistake they'll make twice. So much for repeat business. Manston is unlikely to deliver a steady stream of passengers wanting to connect to Air France-KLM's international hubs.


There's a significant risk that KLM will price themselves out of the market they just created for themselves. KLM aren't cheap, and the Manston service will face two major sources of competition: KLM themselves, who operate cheaper flights to Amsterdam from the London airports; and several other airlines (notably EasyJet) who are about half the price of KLM.


Half the seats on KLM flights are reserved for business class. They are unlikely to be fully booked. The ticket-buying public will realise that international flights from Manston are slow and expensive. The Manston service will become a city-hopper service to Amsterdam (there will be very little inbound tourist traffic) for romantic weekends, stag and hen nights, and a handful of business suits.

That's not enough to sustain the service in the longer term, and it's certainly not enough to reverse Manston's (mis)fortunes. We'll have to put up with night flights, and Manston will keep sinking.

Reader Comments (3)

An excellent analysis by the author who has certainly done their homework here.

I have said in other forums that it will not be viable or helpful for passengers to fly to Amsterdam from Manston to connect to their destination when they can fly direct from London. Maybe having to stay the night in a hotel before making the connection from Amsterdam will just add time and expense to your break or holiday.

Obviously the KLM poll organised by Manston was drafted in a way to fool the respondents into giving 96% backing that they would rather fly from Manston than London. If they were given all the information and full facts in the poll then it would most definitely not have turned out so high in favour. The poll was very misleading indeed, similar to all the other rubbish the Manston spokesmen spout out.

They are desperate to sell-up and will try anything to make it look like a going concern.
Thu, November 22, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKent Resident
The poll was laughable. I took it to see what it was like and by the way the questions were asked it appeared I was resoundingly in favor of the service, despite the fact I actually think the service is pointless/unnecessary.

Add to this the fact the poll was clearly advertised throughout Kent (with big marketing budget and full press support) and you have very high percentage of support. The Nazis sold their ideas in a similar way. It was cleverly done, and with the finance and marketing tactics used I'm sure Infratil/KLM will consider it a success. They got their numbers.

We may endure some night flights for a while but I firmly believe that the market will be the ultimate decider here and when it rears it's ugly head once more in the form of low passenger numbers, zero regeneration for Thanet and empty planes, KLM will pull out with a loss and this will be the final nail in the Manston coffin.

Making Manston work at the cost of Thanet will be a crime. Thanet needs people who care about Thanet spending money in Thanet and attracting more people to Thanet to do the same.
Fri, December 14, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRob
I overheard a conversation @ the last Manston meeting, Charles Buchanan talking about the KLM service to some of his supporters - he said on the busy days the price will rise, so be careful when booking.
Mon, December 17, 2012 | Unregistered Commenteronlyfools

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