Could London Be About To Get A Seventh Airport?

London currently has six international airports. However, an airport in Kent could reopen, providing more flight options for those in the South East. Manston Airport could reopen in 2022, after being saved from becoming a housing development.

London Marston Airport
London could be about to get a seventh airport. Photo via Pixabay

Not many cities can claim to have as many airports as London. The city boasts two main airports, Heathrow and Gatwick, and two low-cost airports, Stansted and Luton. There are also two smaller airports, City and Southend. Now, Manston Airport in Kent could be looking to join the last two, with a reopening in 2022. The airport is eyeing reopening to short-haul flights.

Closed in 2014

Manston Airport closed in 2014. KLM had been flying to the airport from Amsterdam, however the airport was said to be losing around £10,000 per day of operation. The airport was closed on 15th May 2014, after the last commercial flight departed on 9th April.

Since the airport closed, it was announced that Manston Airport would be redeveloped into around 2,500 homes. While this was ongoing, RiverOak Strategic Partners investigated a plan to restore services to the airport. The company has now purchased the airport from SHP, who wanted to develop the housing.

Another Ryanair base?

Ryanair currently operates from four of London’s six airports. These are Gatwick, Luton, Stansted, and Southend. Stansted Airport is Ryanair’s biggest hub, while Ryanair only began operating flights from Southend Airport earlier this year. The airline has three aircraft based at the airport representing a $300 million investment.

London Marston Airport
The airport could make a perfect satellite hub for Ryanair. Photo via Pixabay

From the Essex coastal airport, Ryanair expects to serve one million passengers per year, flying to 13 destinations across eight countries. CH-Aviation reports that the new owners are looking to redevelop Manston Airport. As part of this, they want to introduce passenger flights from Ryanair. Manston Airport could easily reach its target of 860,000 passengers per year from 2024, given Ryanair’s Southend figures.

The new owners of Manston are hoping that getting Ryanair in the door will lead to other interest in the airport. Even potentially stretching to KLM reintroducing flights. However, the owners are also aiming for 174,000 tonnes of cargo per year from 2024. Crucially, they have shown that the plan is financially viable.

Does London need another airport?

We’re constantly seeing plans for the third runway at Heathrow, or a second runway at Gatwick. Why? Because these airports are operating at capacity. According to the BBC in 2018, “The Department for Transport previously said no expansion [at Stansted] would mean London’s five airports reach full capacity by 2034.”

marston Airport London seventh airport
British Airways used Manston Airport for crew training on both the Airbus A380 and the Boeing 787. Photo: British Airways

Opening a new airport could potentially alleviate some of this pressure. However, the airport is located a fair way from London. Carriers are likely to be focused around low-cost operations, as full-service carriers are trying to deliver passengers as close to London as possible.

Personally, I see Manston Airport as being a perfect satellite hub for Ryanair in the United Kingdom. However, I don’t see it becoming as big as Heathrow, or even Stansted. Instead, I feel it could potentially rival London Southend somewhere down the line.

What do you think? Let us know in the comments!

20 comments
    1. Thanks for the catch, Not sure what happened, but would appear my brain was on autopilot. Has been corrected now!

  1. I think multiple airports like this are an excellent idea 🙂
    Other cities could imitate this behavior.
    For example, Dublin airport (north Dublin) is saturated. Rather than (or supplemental to) trying to extend it, there’s already a jet-capable airport at Baldonnel (south Dublin), which is currently only used for light military operations, but which could be easily turned into an airport for LCCs. This would have the additional effect of alleviating the road traffic situation in Dublin.
    Amsterdam has similar plans with Lelystad Airport, but that’s taking forever to open, because of fussing over noise levels 🙁

      1. Thanks for the catch, Not sure what happened, but would appear my brain was on autopilot. Has been corrected now!

    1. Manston has failed numerous times in the past for both passenger and freight, losing over £100m over the years it operated. Surrounded on 3 sides by sea there are not enough people in the so called catchment area to make it viable
      All passenger flights left more than half empty. No business can sustain this and in fact the airport was losing £10000 a day when it was closed. Freight was tried too and we’re told it was due to a lack of investment that it failed as it only had 1 runway which stopped other aircraft from landing while aircraft were being umliaded. However when it was operating Manston couldn’t attract more than 2-3 flights per week. Surely it doesn”t take days to unload. Your article says “crucially viability has been proven.” Really? To make it “viable” RSP have used figures for cargo tonnage that don’t add up. They’ve fudged the figures to get to 10000 air cargo flights per year. They admitted their so called business plan wasn’t a business plan and that they weren’t asked to prove viability. If you care to listen all of the DCO recordings are on the PINS website.

      1. A very large majority of people in Thanet have campaigned for 5 years to win the Airport back. We will never know whether it was viable or not previously as there are stories that the owners were very good at moving money around. I can say that KLM are on record as saying they were very annoyed at being thrown out when the airport was closed – hardly the words of an unsuccessful airline.

        It didn’t work previously because it had only one cargo stand. The current proposal is for 18 cargo stands in addition to the passenger services. The planning inspector will be meticulous in deciding if the plan is viable and the funding available before granting consent to RSP to redevelop for cargo.

        1. Please explain why Manston was only able to attract 2-3 flights per week? It doesn’t take days to unload so if there was any interest in using Manston 1 cargo stand would have been able to accommodate far more than the numbers that did use Manston.

          As for we’ll never know if it was viable – it wasn’t. It lost over £100m
          No business sets out to lose money so suggesting the previous owners were out to sabotage themselves is nonsense. Interestingly Mr Freudmann who is currently fronting RSPs bid was part of the old management team who failed.

          There has never been a majority fighting to keep the airport open. The ONLY official poll was carried out by MORI for TDC and was overwhelmingly against the airport and night flights. Recent local elections in Ramsgate voted in 12/16 and 13/16 councillors to RTC and TDC who stool on a platform against the cargo hub. Online polls open to the world and sent to airport supporter groups worldwide don’t represent the views of local people. Neither do highly biased polls of airport vs houses which was a totally inaccurate representation of the facts.

  2. By the way it’s called Manston (Kent International Airport) not Marston.

    I live in Kent and have flown light aircraft over Manston multiple times, it should be quite straightforward to reopen given most of the key infrastructure is still present, but may take years before it actually happens given the locals are quite nimby-ist about the idea.

    It does have some potential as a freight hub; being 2 hours away from central London by motorway with easy road access for lorries does make it attractive for freight, however is somewhat limited by it’s 9,000ft runway meaning the biggest freighters (777F, 747F) can’t operate at MTOW. It should be fine for DHL or UPS who operate A300s and 767s out of other London airports. And in terms of passenger movements, the catchment area is very small and there’s no rail link. This is why KLM and Flybe stopped serving the airport as load factors weren’t high enough. I doubt Ryanair could do better, plus it’s just better to travel to London City, Heathrow or Gatwick where there’s more flight choices. London needs fewer airports, not more, and expanding Heathrow is still way more advantageous than reopening Manston.

    1. Thanks for the catch, Not sure what happened, but would appear my brain was on autopilot. Has been corrected now!

    2. To say Manston can’t cope with 777F and 747F aircraft is a nonsense. Cargolux, Atlas and Saudi Arabian Cargo were all regular weekly visitors to the airport with 747Fs. Numerous visits by Antonov An124 Ruslans with specialised cargo also graced the tarmac. British Airways did their acceptance trials of the Airbus A.380 from here so to say it can’t handle large modern freighters is not true. To put the reccord straight, KLM left not because of falling pax levels (the opposite was true) but because the airport was closed at short notice by the ‘assett strippers’ who bought it.

      1. It can handle these aircraft, just not at Maximum Takeoff Weight (MTOW) which limits range and loads, thus limiting destinations that these aircraft can serve. Cargolux flew from the USA burning up fuel across the pond, landing at far below MTOW, and had to fly to Europe first before commencing on the return leg to the USA if carrying a full load of cargo. BA tested their A380s here with no passengers, whilst carrying a small amount of fuel. Way below an A380’s MTOW.

    3. Manston is right next to the HS1 service from Ramsgate to St Pancras, making it very easy to provide a fast link for passengers into London and beyond. Road access needs improvement but rail is less of a problem.

  3. large very congested airports like Heathrow are great fro the operators as efficient, but an awful experience for the passenger. Smaller airports are the future.

  4. I personally would love to see Manston Airport operating along with easy jet or any other low cost airline’s flying into Europe .l live in Kent and at the moment to get to an airport have to drive 2/3 hours to get to an airport or get on two trains another 2/3 hours only to find myself flying back over Kent 4 hours later.what a waste of fuel,time,and money. Bring it on Mansion you would certainly have my support and that of nearly all people I speak to .

  5. We have seen so many operators with big ideas fail in the past, what makes this group think they will make it pay? For a passenger airport you need facilities such as hotels good rail and bus links and of course road links, we have none of these. If we have the amount of freight they are dreaming of the roads around the area of Manston would be choked with large trucks trying to move all this freight. No I feel it is just another fool hardy scheme backed by this incompetent council that will end in tears as have all the others

  6. Manston will have both a lorry park and permission was granted to run a spur line and a new station to be built nearby.
    It’s only those who had a vested interest in the housing building fiasco who are currently bad nothing the project.

    1. There are two hotels at Minster – Premier Inn and Holiday Inn Express. There will be a new station at Ebbsfleet (near the airport) and links for the M2 are good. Why all this negativity when Thanet is crying out for development which will bring jobs, spin off business and prosperity to a deprived area of the country. It’s better not to keep harking back to the past – things change – can’t we think positive for once?

  7. Thank you for the write up. Great news for our Grand children and Great Grandchildren, with job opportunities for the Isle of Thanet!!! We are really pleased the River Oak have purchased this site.

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