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Confirmed: Doncaster Sheffield Airport to close in October

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It was confirmed this morning that Doncaster Sheffield Airport is to permanently close at the end of October. Tui, the largest carrier, has already removed all of its holidays from sale.

The owner, Peel Group, will proceed with plans to turn the site into a warehouse complex.

The airport is well situated geographically to be a logistics hub and benefits from the ‘Great Yorkshire Way’ road upgrade in 2018 which connects it directly to the motorway network.

Doncaster Sheffield airport to close on 31st October

The warehouse sector has been exceptionally ‘hot’ in recent months, and there is now a major shortage of capacity in many places, primarily serving online retail. Asda recently sold its warehouse network to Blackstone for £1.7 billion in a deal which was only expected to raise £950 million.

The airport has confirmed internally that it has lost £170 million since it opened and, on current forecasts, will lose another £45 million over the next five years.

Head for Points had an exclusive in July when we reported that the airport would close on 31st October. The airport was claiming in public that a final decision had not been taken, but our sources on the senior team at the airport told us otherwise. We have never had so much criticism for publishing an article as we received from that story, with many people believing that we were exaggerating. Unfortunately for the airport employees involved, what we wrote was totally correct.

Peel Group acquired the former RAF Finningley site in 1999 and opened it as a commercial airport in 2005. Substantial sums have been invested in the terminal and airfield since that time.

Despite this, and despite the popularity of the airport in the region, the only airline with a base at Doncaster Sheffield is TUI. Wizz Air – previously the largest carrier at the airport – withdrew its aircraft in June, apparently in a dispute about fees.

According to Cirium data, Doncaster Sheffield was the UK’s 26th biggest airport in 2019 with 4,609 departures. Bucharest, intriguingly, was the most popular destination with 171 flights last year. Over Summer 2022, with Wizz Air pulling back, just 808 flights departed across July and August.

Peel Group has already had success developing an adjacent site to the airport, GatewayEast, which includes a recent contract to develop a 400,000 sq ft logistics and advanced manufacturing site.

Luckily for Peel, the vast amounts of money that the local authority spent on upgrading road links from the motorway to the airport have vastly increased the value of the site as a warehousing centre.

Robert Hough, Chairman of Peel Airports Group, which includes Doncaster Sheffield Airport, said in a statement:

“We recognise that this will come as a great disappointment to many. The intractable problem remains the fundamental and insufficient lack of current or prospective revenue streams, together with the airport’s high operating costs. Our employees have always been DSA’s greatest asset, and we are grateful to them all, past and present, for their dedication and diligence over the years. The immediate priority remains to continue engaging closely with them over the next few weeks. 

“As such, DSA will now begin a formal process of consulting with team members. We will do everything we can to minimise the impact of these proposals and work closely with local authorities and agencies to support our employees through what we know will be an extremely difficult period. DSA has remained in contact with union representatives on site throughout and we are committed to ensuring they are updated through every step of this next phase.” 

You can read more about the closure on the airport website here.

Comments (67)

  • Nick says:

    Proximity to Manchester Airport and East Midlands Airport was probably the nail in the coffin. Insufficient demand from low cost airlines who can consolidate at these airports with operational savings. Manchester and East Midlands are both owned by MAG (as is Stansted) which will have given them more power than Peel to negotiate with the airlines and low cost carriers in particular. Fortunately Peel has expertise in other sectors so can hopefully convert the airfield into a successful employment generating distribution centre.

  • Dev says:

    Is there no future as a cargo hub? I know there is direct cargo flight from Nairobi of all places and I have previously seen those massive Antonovs at the airport (the ones where the crews look like theyve necked 12 bottles of vodka each).

    • ADS says:

      isn’t East Midlands airport a big cargo hub already?

      hard to see the need for another one less than sixty driving miles away

  • TimM says:

    BBC Look North reported that there were only 10 flights/day and yet the airport employed 800 people. They ought to take a look at Kalamata airport which has two check-in desks, two ‘gates’ (doors on to the tarmac) and perhaps a two dozen employees in total across all departments. Mind you if they have two flights at the same time the airport is full to busting.

    • Aviadea says:

      Kalamata has 4 check-in desks and 9 daily flights 🙂

      • TimM says:

        Kalamata also technically has four gates if you count both the left and right sides of the same double doors. The point being that Doncaster did not need 800 employees for 10 flights a day. It looks like Peel wanted to take business away from neighbouring airports and planned big when actually they should have planned small and grown organically, as and when the demand was there.

  • IslandDweller says:

    “Are you seriously suggesting Peel built an airport, absorbed huge losses over a few years as part of a master plan ultimately to build some warehouses??“
    Built an airport? No. It was already there. They added some terminal facilities.
    Lost millions. So they say. Whilst simultaneously getting public funds spent on road improvements.
    Master plan? Yes. Entirely believable.
    I’ve obviously worked with far more “creative” bosses than you do.

    • Rob says:

      Totally agree. You can be very sure this has been in the works for a long time. Peel runs other airports – and they feed warehousing operations – so both can work together, but do NOT underestimate how amazingly well placed the site is, given its motorway access. There are good reasons why South Yorkshire has seen huge influxes of warehouse operators. It’s just a shame they don’t create many jobs.

  • Alex Sm says:

    It’s like the news about the Queen’s passing. Even if you know that it’s inevitable or might have even happened already, it’s difficult to believe and premature messengers are ostracised

  • Gordon says:

    A freind of mine who lives in Sheffield was a regular user of this airport, And he is less than impressed even thought it has only 3 gates.

  • ben says:

    Sounds a bit like Prestwick airport. Lots of public cash – either directly or indirectly – used to prop up a small airport just a few miles from much bigger airports – and eventually gets closed.

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