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EVENTS NEWS Last modified on May 19, 2014

Europe's regional airports play vital economic and social role

The huge economic and social importance of regional airports to local communities and entire regions ensure that they are assets that need protecting, according to the head of ACI Europe’s Regional Airports Forum.

Speaking at last week’s Regional Airports Conference & Exhibition in Madeira, Thomas Langeland – who is also managing director of Kristiansand Airport in Norway – warned that the vital role they play is often overlooked by regulators and the public.

Langeland revealed that his airport’s close proximity to nearby gas and oil fields meant that a single oil rig supply company in Kristiansand was responsible for 3,000 of the city’s 80,000 population and essentially filled KLM flights to Amsterdam Schiphol.

“They would simply not be in Kristiansand without the connectivity to Amsterdam and the rest of the world,” he said.

He noted that every passenger handled at Las Palmas Airport in the Canary Islands contributes more than €1,000 to the local economy, bringing €3.8 billion in economic benefit annually.

Langeland noted that in northern Norway, air ambulances made over 32,000 movements and 12,600 flight hours to regional airports in 2013, while scheduled flights alone transported more than 400,000 patients for treatment.

And as an example of the essential connectivity provided by regional gateways, Langeland said that tiny Corvo Airport in the Azores “provides a lifeline” for its population of around 1,000 people, despite handling less than 4,000 passengers yearly.

Langeland also reminded delegates of the important role regional airports play in cargo development, citing another example from Kristiansand, which is used by companies to ship spare parts for an oil rigs all over the world.

Oil rigs can lose around $500,000 a day when forced to close down.

“Too often, the importance of regional airports to economic development of the region in which they are located in is not properly acknowledged,” warned Langeland.

“Regional airports are catalysts for economic growth by providing essential connectivity, which enhances the economic performance of other sectors and facilitate inward investment in facilities, services, products and tourism that helps develop communities.

“This role, of course, differs across Europe where the Regional Airports Forum has close to 400 member airports differing significantly in size, business models and locations.

“In the Greek islands, Spain and Maderia, for example, regional airports are vital for tourism, while in Kristiansand, where I am from, they drive investments associated with in the oil and gas industry.

“Unfortunately, this is not always recognised by regulators or the public, in general.”

Some regional airports have a commercial mandate, while others have a mandate to provide air services to communities that are often located in remote regions with sparse populations, admiited Langeland.

“Air connectivity provides a crucial lifeline to European and global markets for many regional communities and businesses,” said Langeland.

“Regional airports keep the four corners of Europe connected to the world and beyond.”

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