Simon Calder's Holiday Helpdesk: Why is Manston never mentioned as a London airport option?

Every day our travel guru answers your travel questions

Q The Independent referred to the return of commercial flights, to Amsterdam, at the former RAF air base at Manston. I was down that way in the summer and agog at the size of the airfield. Given it wouldn't be difficult to link it via the High Speed One rail link or the M2, there is obviously a good reason why Manston is never mentioned as a possible new London airport option. What is it?

Nick Eastwell

A You're right about the sheer scale of the former RAF Manston - it has one of the longest runways in the UK after Heathrow. You're also right that it's easily accessible from London on the M2 and the A299 (the motorway's continuation into Thanet). And thanks to the High Speed One rail line, Ramsgate station is just 77 minutes from London St Pancras, with the airport about five minutes beyond.

The geographical position of Manston bestows it with big advantages for eastbound flying. Frankfurt, Luxembourg and Amsterdam are at least 20 minutes closer from Manston than from Heathrow. And that's on a good day; on bad days, with heavy traffic or stormy weather, Manston's advantage is much greater, avoiding congestion on the ground and in the skies over London - the busiest Air Traffic Control space in the world.

Yet repeated attempts to run scheduled flights from Manston have failed, most recently when Flybe axed its routes to Edinburgh and Belfast.

Why isn't Manston part of the solution, at least in the short term, to South-east England's capacity crisis? Geography, once again. Everyone living west of the River Medway is closer to Gatwick or Stansted than they are to Manston. As the main bases for easyJet and Ryanair respectively, these airports offer cheap flights to a vast range of destinations across Europe.

Manston may yet succeed as a niche airport, with KLM's announcement that it will start twice-daily flights to Amsterdam in the spring. If they profitably connect East Kent with the rest of the world, other airlines such as the Dutch airline's parent company, Air France, and Lufthansa of Germany, may be tempted to open links to Paris Charles de Gaulle and Frankfurt respectively. That would help alleviate some of the strain on other airports. But were Manston to grow strongly there could be some significant airspace issues involving entanglement with flight paths to and from Amsterdam - which would also apply to a Thames Estuary airport.

Click HERE to email Simon.

You can also tweet him your questions @SimonCalder

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Recruitment Genius: Transportation Contracting Manager

    £33000 - £38000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A global player and world leade...

    Recruitment Genius: Hotel and Spa Duty Manager

    £18000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: If you are friendly, sociable, ...

    Recruitment Genius: Payroll and Benefits Co-ordinator

    £22300 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This museum group is looking for a Payro...

    ICE ICT: Lead Business Consultant

    £39,000: ICE ICT: Specific and detailed knowledge and experience of travel sys...

    Day In a Page

    How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth: Would people co-operate to face down a global peril?

    How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth

    Would people cooperate to face a global peril?
    Just one day to find €1.6bn: Greece edges nearer euro exit

    One day to find €1.6bn

    Greece is edging inexorably towards an exit from the euro
    New 'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could help surgeons and firefighters, say scientists

    'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could become reality

    Holographic projections would provide extra information on objects in a person's visual field in real time
    Sugary drinks 'are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year'

    Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year

    The drinks that should be eliminated from people's diets
    Pride of Place: Historians map out untold LGBT histories of locations throughout UK

    Historians map out untold LGBT histories

    Public are being asked to help improve the map
    Lionel, Patti, Burt and The Who rock Glasto

    Lionel, Patti, Burt and The Who rock Glasto

    This was the year of 24-carat Golden Oldies
    Paris Fashion Week

    Paris Fashion Week

    Thom Browne's scarecrows offer a rare beacon in commercial offerings
    A year of the caliphate:

    Isis, a year of the caliphate

    Who can defeat the so-called 'Islamic State' – and how?
    Marks and Spencer: Can a new team of designers put the spark back into the high-street brand?

    Marks and Spencer

    Can a new team of designers put the spark back into the high-street brand?
    'We haven't invaded France': Italy's Prime Minister 'reclaims' Europe's highest peak

    'We haven't invaded France'

    Italy's Prime Minister 'reclaims' Europe's highest peak
    Isis in Kobani: Why we ignore the worst of the massacres

    Why do we ignore the worst of the massacres?

    The West’s determination not to offend its Sunni allies helps Isis and puts us all at risk, says Patrick Cockburn
    7/7 bombings 10 years on: Four emergency workers who saved lives recall the shocking day that 52 people were killed

    Remembering 7/7 ten years on

    Four emergency workers recall their memories of that day – and reveal how it's affected them ever since
    Humans: Are the scientists developing robots in danger of replicating the hit Channel 4 drama?

    They’re here to help

    We want robots to do our drudge work, and to look enough like us for comfort. But are the scientists developing artificial intelligence in danger of replicating the TV drama Humans?
    Time to lay these myths about the Deep South to rest

    Time to lay these myths about the Deep South to rest

    'Heritage' is a loaded word in the Dixie, but the Charleston killings show how dangerous it is to cling to a deadly past, says Rupert Cornwell
    What exactly does 'one' mean? Court of Appeal passes judgement on thorny mathematical issue

    What exactly does 'one' mean?

    Court of Appeal passes judgement on thorny mathematical issue