Bernie Baldwin

Profiling LBA and the fundamentals that underpin its ambitions of 7 million passengers per year.

There’s a self-deprecating joke that people from Yorkshire – an English county with a strong sense of identity and pride – tell against themselves. It goes: “You can always tell a Yorkshireman, but you can’t tell him much!”

Right now, however, the opposite is true at the county’s largest airport, Leeds Bradford International (LBA), where listening is the order of the day, according to Joanna Wild, the airport’s chief commercial officer. Even during COVID-19, the LBA team has been paying attention to the range of opinions about its plans to develop a new terminal to replace the current facility.

“Infrastructure is a long-term investment and we are committed to the long-term future of LBA and in bringing our plans to fruition if approved,” Wild explains. “This significant, private investment in the airport will protect and create new jobs, boost international connectivity, and comes at a time when the region and sector need to turbocharge the economic recovery that will no doubt eventually follow.

“Our ambition is to reach demand for 7 million passengers in a more sustainable way than our previous planning consent would allow, making us better able to respond to the need for a sustainable future of aviation,” she adds. The airport’s recent results show its annual passenger figures hovering around 4 million for the past two years.

“We value feedback from the public, interested groups and stakeholders, and we consult extensively with members of the public and environmental experts to ensure our plans create an efficient replacement terminal for the future.

“We are pleased to see so many local businesses and consumers are actively supporting the plans on the planning portal and the number of local stakeholders who see the value in what we are trying to achieve,” the CCO reports.

Both Leeds and Bradford are business strongholds and the LBA team is looking for a solid comeback for business travel once operations restart. However, with West Yorkshire alone offering a population of 2.3 million, there are plenty of leisure/VFR passengers ready to travel.

“Leeds, Bradford and the Yorkshire region have dynamic, robust economies, so we are confident that demand for air travel for both business and leisure will steadily recover,” Wild confirms. “We are working closely with our airlines regarding their updated 2020 and 2021 schedules, with Ryanair and Eastern Airways resuming operations from June and KLM from July.”

The airport is also home to Jet2.com, which across its nine bases including LBA carries 12 million passengers a year. The airline – whose size is often underappreciated; its fleet comprises more than 100 aircraft – has announced a return to operations in mid-July.

LBA has suffered from the lack of a direct rail connection to either city. Technological developments though, mean prospects for better ground transport infrastructure are looking up.

“We are working with local government to press forward with improvements to our connections to Leeds, Bradford and the rest of West Yorkshire. These are being fully explored; however, we are confident that public transport access to LBA will be improved in the coming years,” Wild states.

If and when that element joins the mix, the move towards 7 million passengers a year could come rapidly. And that’s no joke!