Norwich airport development fee to double

Air passengers face higher charges to fly out of Norwich under plans to double the airport's departure tax.

The airport development fee, which was first introduced in 2007, will increase from �5 to �10 in January 2012. But there will no longer be a charge for children aged under 16.

Airport bosses have said the price hike is needed to safeguard the future of Norwich International Airport.

Norwich is one of just four airports in the country which charges a development fee with Blackpool, Durham Tees Valley and Newquay also charging the tax.

It was first introduced to help fund an �18m expansion plan, sparking anger among airport users and airline companies.

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Since it first came into effect, it has contributed to more than �14m of investment in the airport including a terminal extension, refurbished arrivals concourse, flight information screens, air traffic control equipment and fire training and rescue materials.

Airport chief executive Andrew Bell said: 'It's clear that if we are going to grow as a regional airport, we need to be more entrepreneurial and �10 is the fee it needs to be.

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'What it means looking forward is that we've got the best chance of keeping the routes we've got, getting more routes and continuing to make the capital investments required at the airport.

'When people look at booking a flight, they look at where they can fly from and the price. We know that two million people can't fly from Norwich because the flight isn't there. If we can show airlines that we are sustainable then we can offer them more entrepreneurial deals and everyone wins - the airline gets what they want and the passengers get what they want because the flights are here and they can fly from here.'

Over the last three years, airports across the country have seen huge reductions in passenger numbers which have been put down to the credit crunch, rising fuel costs and more people holidaying at home.

Norwich sees about 450,000 passengers a year, down from 800,000 in 2007 when Flybe at its peak operated 15 flights from the city.

About half of its passengers are thought to be business customers.

The airport development fee which originally cost �3 when it was came into force in April 2007, currently accounts for eight per cent of the airport's revenue and brings in just under �700,000 a year.

With the price increase on January 3, this will double to close to �1.4m.

Mr Bell added: 'At other airports, they charge for parking drop off, baggage trolleys, plastic bags for your liquids, fast track security, wireless internet - we charge an airport development fee instead of everything else.

'It has to go up to make sure that this region has a sustainable airport. At �10 we believe we have a sustainable business that can cater for 450,000 people a year and have the best chance to grow our routes so that those who currently can't use the airport because we don't have the flights they want, can.

'It does not guarantee success but it means we have a good chance.'

Latest figures from the Civil Aviation Authority reveal that about 80,000 people within Norwich airport's catchment area fly to Dublin from Stansted while a further 65,000 fly to Malaga, a flight which got cut from Norwich.

It is hoped that the more favourable deals Norwich can offer airlines, the more flights it will be able to secure for passengers.

Sophie Baker, owner of Oyster Travel in Norwich, said: 'People will complain about the increase because they already dislike the airport development fee as it is but they will still fly from Norwich because it's so convenient.

'Sometimes it's a myth that flying from Norwich is more expensive and some holidays are the same price as flying from Stansted but without the expense of going to Stansted.

'People are unhappy with Norwich because they don't offer anything extra and have cut flights but maybe they are trying to recoup routes with this increase.'

Norwich airport passenger Ronald Brooks, 71, from Dereham, who had just arrived home from Dubrovnik, Croatia, said: 'We fly out of Norwich because it's more convenient but I think it's absolutely disgusting that they charge a development fee. If they were to put it up, we would have to compare and look at the prices.'

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