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Why Doncaster Sheffield Airport is rated one of the best in the UK

PUBLISHED: 00:00 17 October 2018 | UPDATED: 09:19 17 October 2018

A plane’s eye view of Doncaster Sheffield Airport

A plane’s eye view of Doncaster Sheffield Airport

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Is Doncaster soaring in the slipstream of success created by its award-winning airport?

Simply the best – Doncaster Sheffield Airport staff celebrate their winning waysSimply the best – Doncaster Sheffield Airport staff celebrate their winning ways

Long-haul plans are preparing for take-off in South Yorkshire for a highly sophisticated aerotropolis with Doncaster Sheffield Airport’s 1,600-acre Aero Centre Yorkshire as its central hub. It comes as the airport celebrates two major accolades, an unprecedented 1.3 million passengers in the last year and a rise in destinations, now soaring past 55.

DSA was recently named best airport in the UK 2018 by Which? Magazine for the second time in a row. In a survey of 11,000 UK passengers, staff came in for particular praise for their dedication to delivering excellent customer service.

This came hot on the heels of it being named Saga members’ favourite UK airport. The company, which specialises in products and services for the over-50s, revealed that Doncaster came top in a survey of 9,500 members for parking, flight availability, staff helpfulness, comfort and queuing at check-in, security and baggage. The only area it didn’t get top marks in was its range of food and shops.

But that minor blip on the radar could soon be awarded an upgrade as part of the airport’s 20-year Vision masterplan, which it hopes will be a major catalyst for regional prosperity and international connectivity.

Passengers checking in at  Doncaster Sheffield airport Photo: AlamyPassengers checking in at Doncaster Sheffield airport Photo: Alamy

The plan sets out DSA’s ambition to transform South Yorkshire, creating new employment, housing, tourism and aviation capacity. More specifically, it wants to welcome 4.7 million passengers a year by 2037; increase its cargo operation to 70,000 tonnes; double the size of the terminal (including more of those all-important food and retail outlets); see 3,000 new homes as well as new retail, hotel and a leisure complex on site; and provide a £238 million boost to the region’s tourism economy.

A key component is the addition of an airport railway station connected to the East Coast Mainline via seven miles of new track. The station would provide a direct link to London and Newcastle in less than 90 minutes and would also be connected to regional centres like Sheffield, Leeds and Hull.

Robert Hough CBE, chairman of DSA owner Peel Airports, said: ‘This is a vision with a central pillar that delivers air connectivity, new housing, highly skilled employment, tourism and better rail connectivity at exceptional value for money. It is of national significance for aviation and the economy, particularly in the north.’

Expansion of the growing commercial district at Aero Centre Yorkshire, the 1,600-acre site around DSA, has already been cleared for take-off by Doncaster Council. This comprises up to 600,000 square feet of office, general industry, storage and distribution space and up to 800 new jobs – all with enhanced accessibility with the addition of the proposed East Coast Mainline link, which could be in place by 2024.

An airport railway station connected to the East Coast Mainline via seven miles of new track is a key component in the 20-year development masterplanAn airport railway station connected to the East Coast Mainline via seven miles of new track is a key component in the 20-year development masterplan

Andrew Farrer, development manager for Peel Land and Property, said: ‘Aero Centre Yorkshire’s wider development will build on the success of DSA, which has seen significant growth in recent times. We want to reflect the rapid growth in the cargo and logistics market at DSA, helped by the improved accessibility provided by the Great Yorkshire Way as well as its location in a national logistics hotspot between the Humber ports and the motorway network.’

Travel operator TUI, a founding partner in DSA supports the airport’s high flying ambitions, putting its money where its mouth is by introducing long haul flights to Doncaster for the first time next summer, introducing five new routes – Florida, Croatia, Egypt, Greece and Turkey – and adding 110,000 seats.

‘We’ve grown strongly since we opened our doors in April 2005,’ said Kate Stow, DSA’s director of marketing and corporate affairs. ‘We’re really proud to have created one of the fastest growing airports, which our 1.3 million passengers a year tell us is a real pleasure to travel through, and we are continuing to develop services and the range our range of destinations.’

But a key element of any expansion plan is grass roots support. So, does DSA have the backing of the Doncaster community?

Eleven public consultations held over a ten-week period gleaned more than 1,600 responses. Staff from the airport also visited local schools to speak to more than 1,500 children about potential careers in aviation.

Early results of the consultation show more than 90 per cent of respondents expressed strong support for DSA’s development objectives, 97 per cent supported the expanded services in the terminal building and 96 per cent supported proposals to deliver new employment, possibly to the tune of 13,000 new jobs.

Ros Jones, Mayor of Doncaster, echoes their support: ‘Doncaster Sheffield Airport is a superbly located international gateway to the north. It is already experiencing significant growth, driving job creation and delivering new economic activity. Most importantly, it has huge additional potential and can play a major role in the future transport and economic ambitions of the north.’

Doncaster Chamber of Commerce recently polled local businesses on the benefits of the proposed airport rail link and got a 97 per cent positive response.

‘DSA is already an incredibly important part of the region’s economy and jobs market,’ said chief executive Daniel Fell. ‘And there are significant agglomeration benefits associated with the airport. Indeed, the on-going development, associated business park and businesses on or near the airport estate has created numerous supply chain and job opportunities for local businesses and residents while also facilitating a major uplift in inward investment to the area.

‘The airport provides a gateway to overseas markets for local businesses that trade internally, something that will become increasingly advantageous to the region as the airport develops and serves an increasing number of destinations. There is also significant opportunity to develop freight operations, something that will, again, support the success of regional businesses in overseas markets. The importance of this in the run up to Brexit cannot be overstated.’

‘As well as supporting the outward transit of people and goods, the airport is a key gateway to the region. In recent years, the Yorkshire brand has grown exponentially around the globe and DSA, along with Leeds-Bradford Airport, provides a vital entry point,’ said Daniel.

‘Infrastructure investment has been critical to the success of the airport. Most notably the Great Yorkshire Way, which has catalysed route development activity while opening up a corridor for further business expansion including the iPort which hosts big employers like Amazon and Fellowes.

‘And as the airport develops, we anticipate that highly skilled jobs will follow. That’s why the Chamber is working with local partners to develop the workforce of the future via the introduction of new institutions like the University Technical College (opening in September 2020) and Doncaster Skills Academy.

‘We want to raise aspirations amongst Doncaster’s young people and demonstrate to them the exciting range of careers now available to them – like being an air traffic controller or aviation engineer.’

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