RONALDSWAY airport bosses had been expecting a return to growth after the problems of last year caused by extreme weather and volcanic eruptions.
But after a solid start to 2011 with January showing a 3.6 per cent increase in passengers, February’s results wiped out the gains, with a 3.6 per cent decrease for the month.
Airport director Ann Reynolds admitted the fall in traffic was understandable but nevertheless disappointing.
She said: ‘With the difficulties experienced last year hopefully behind us, we had expected a small growth in passenger traffic.
‘It seems that demand is taking longer than we expected to regenerate and airlines operating some of our primary routes are still struggling to fill aircraft during this, the quietest time of the year.’
A total of 49,126 passengers flew into and out of the airport in February, compared with 50,955 in the same month last year – a reduction of 1,829.
While other recent decreases could be attributed to weather disruption, Ms Reynolds said February’s results reflected a cautious approach by airlines to restoring capacity on some routes during the winter months, with January and February traditionally the leanest season for air travel.
Traffic to Manchester dropped by 16.5 per cent and to Birmingham by 12.5 per cent in February.
The London City route had an aircraft with significantly reduced capacity operating the route last month and hence a reduction in passengers of over 1,400.
On the positive side Liverpool traffic increased by almost 2,600 passengers with Flybe and easyJet carrying between them over 11,600 passengers.
Routes operated by Manx2.com also showed ‘encouraging’ performance, despite a reduction of capacity to meet lower demand, achieving between 60 per cent and 70 per cent occupancy on four out of five routes.
The Scottish routes operated for Flybe by Loganair also produced improved results overall with Edinburgh increasing by 18 per cent, and Glasgow, despite a fall in traffic, selling almost two thirds of the seats on the route over the month.
Ms Reynolds added: ‘It is clearly taking more time for the airport to return to consistent growth. The spring and early summer period will be a key time for us and will shape the likely outcome for 2011.
‘All the indications still give us cause for optimism, as early bookings for this busier period remain relatively strong.’
Minister of Infrastructure Phil Gawne said the island’s route network had remained robust throughout a lengthy period of sustained difficulties and this was of fundamental importance to the island.
He said: ‘We have only seen one route dropped and another, Belfast International, consolidated at Belfast City, so our airline partners have resolutely stuck with us during times that have been economically very tough.’