Sunday, July 06, 2008

Norwich International: Why the development charge isn't working

The MD of Norwich International will no doubt get some positive coverage in the next few days as his controversial charge to leave Norwich has now raised £1m and they can start splashing our cash. The spending projects include improving safety and, most importantly, extra investment into the fire services. This is good stuff, obviously, and we should welcome this sort of investment. However, what is curious is the total rejection of the idea that the development charge is far from developing the airport, it is holding it back.

I say this for 2 key reasons; Airport bosses claim that the charge is, at least, upfront open and honest. They claim that other airports hide their charges on things like parking, trolley hire and the like. This really doesn't stand up to scrutiny. In all those things, the consumer has the choice; airport parking is a vicious market where prices are being driven down - when we parked at Stanstead going to NY in May Half-Term we got an excellent deal by choosing a company outside of the airport. Similarly if I don't like the cost of trolley hire, I choose to pull my own luggage. Simple. However the Norwich development charge doesn't give you that choice; you have to pay it in order to board your flight. Open and honest it may be, but so too is it unavoidable unlike all of the other charges at other airports.

And secondly there is the total lack of understanding of human nature. People hate paying this so-called charge (we call it a tax) upfront because you physically see the money changing hands - on top of the existing airport tax we pay on the ticket cost. Travelling from Norwich is expensive but it's convenient. They should have a cornered market for the airport here in Norfolk, but still the chopping and changing of flight routes and the development charge drive people to Stanstead, Luton and even Heathrow.

Norwich Airport is a fantastic resource and I support it 100%, but whereas it should have cornered market and a great profitable business, it has succeeded in antagonising large sections of its natural market - people in Norwich and Norfolk. I wish that the MD would think again about this.


Anonymous said...

Couldn't agree with you more on this development fee.

Like all UK airports NWI is already charging a Passenger Service Charge (PSC) which is added to the price of the ticket as one of several "Taxes and Charges". If, instead of charging a separate development fee, they had increased the PSC I suspect most people wouldn't even have noticed.

It's the "hassle factor" of the airport development fee that I object to most. Having to battle with vending machines which half the time aren't working or are only accepting cash. Having to queue at the car parking counter when the machines have yet again broken down.

I travel on business, and I travel a lot. I just want to arrive at the airport, drop off my bag if I have one, go through security and board my flight. I don't want the extra hassle.

I live equidistant between Norwich and London City (and quite close to Stansted, too - though I don't like STN!). My preferred carrier, KLM, flies from both NWI and LCY. I used to use NWI almost exclusively. These days about half my flights are from LCY, and while the development fee isn't the only reason for this it has been a significant factor.

Anonymous said...

I tend to disagree. Business can't always make popular cost decisions. Isn't this a case of having ones cake, eating it, but not paying for it. Noone likes paying a charge, like crossing the QEII bridge across the Thames, but this covers the construction cost. Perhaps council tax should be scraped and the public charged for council services they solely wish to use? No, a non runner.

I think don't pay, don't fly is a sound market concept; keeping the shoestring numbers market away, which will not aid airport development in revenue terms.

The alternative question should be who pays to generate £1m for safety/fire. Does the airport raise it from space revenues selling more cheap booze or perfumes in departure areas? Should not the air passenger cover this, or should putting out plane fires be done on a shoe string, afforded by someone else?

From Flybe cutting environmentally damaging cheap short hauls, where rail trips are possible; other chartered carriers have come in to take these slots, with new flights to Malaga/Tenerife, where rail is more d ifficult. Surely the market should prevail. If one wants convenience one pays extra, if not travel to Standsted which has pay as you go services, and has enhanced fire/safety established.

Can one honestly say to the residents of Catton, underneath the flightpath, one has 100%ambitions for development of flights, rivally London Stansted or Luton, or see steady organic qualitygrowth for a regional airport with international flights?
I suppose as a flat tax it does bear some comparisons to Mother Thatcher's Community Charge/PollTax.

Anonymous said...

Norwich Airport is a business and investment in a business should come from the shareholders, either through reduced dividends or share issues, not though demanding money with menaces from the traveling public. Another way would be to increase the price the customer pays, in this instance the customer is the airline, they have a contract with the airport, the passenger has a contract with the airline. How can it be legal to force people to pay a fee to someone without entering into a contract with them? This is bullying and mugging combined and disguised as a fee, they even have the cheek to thank us for our support on their website.

Anonymous said...

Couldn't agree with you on this development fee.

I used to use Norwich Airport returning to Singapore quite often because of the convenience, close to my home in Norwich but have now avoided it like the plague.

On top of the taxes and charges levied onto our tickets (already flying from Norwich Airport tickets are so high) we have to pay development fee!! A relative had to pay three times in one day while her carrier decided whether her regional flight was being delayed and/or canceled. They did not make any exceptions even though she had already gone through the first time and paid the fee. She now takes the train and found it good.

I know many of my friends have stopped traveling from Norwich Airport-the development fee is the factor.