MIAMI – Steve Szalay, the managing director of Southampton Airport (SOU) said that the airport’s future depends on the extension plans. He hopes that the Eastleigh Borough Council will approve the plans before Christmas this year.

Southampton Airport is very close to the city. It borders the M37 motorway from the South and an industrial park from the North. Its 02-20 (South-North) runway is only 1723 meters (5653 ft) long. The short runway limits the airport’s expansion.

Last year, about 1.8 million passengers traveled through SOU, which is a decrease from the last three years. It’s number one destination was Manchester (MAN), followed by Edinburgh (EDI) and Amsterdam (AMS). Flybe (BE) operated most of these routes, using SOU as a hub.

SOU. Photo: Wiki Commons

The Issue

Flybe went into administration in early March, erasing most of SOU’s traffic. Even though a few airlines stepped in, Southampton’s traffic shrunk horribly. Even further, the COVID-19 situation resulted in fewer passenger demand, especially on international routes.

Szalay reported an 89% drop in passenger numbers. To expand its network, SOU needs this runway extension. By extending the runway length by 164 meters, new airlines with bigger aircraft could appear at the airport. The airport expects the approval before Christmas.

Southampton Airport’s planned runway extension. Picture source: Southampton Airport

What if?

The runway extension raised criticism amongst citizens. Some worry that the increased traffic would result in more pollution. The Winchester and Southampton councils have not approved the plan. If Eastleigh does, it will need to hold a 30 days consultation period.

According to Szalay, SOU can only survive if they build the new runway. They have money until 2022, but if they cannot build the runway, there is no reason to continue operating, according to Szalay.

“If we don’t get the approval for the extension we could have to shut in 2021 because if there is no future for the business why would we limp along”

Featured image source: Roy Gray / Wikimedia Commons