TAG Farnborough, the UK's only dedicated business aviation airport, has recorded its highest annual movements for a decade, reflecting a resurgence in global business aviation traffic, notably from Africa, Asia and Europe.
For the 12 months ended 31 December 2017, the private aircraft hub, around 35 miles (55km) southwest of London, recorded 27,000 take-offs and landings – up 7.4% on the same period in 2016 and the largest tally since the market peak of 2007.
This year has got off to a good start as well. TAG Farnborough, which is also one of the busiest business aviation airports in Europe, says it recorded its "strongest January" since operations began in 2004. With over 2,000 movements, this total represents an 18% increase on the same period last year. The company expects this positive trend to continue in 2018, thanks in part to July's Farnborough International air show, which it describes as "a major draw for private aircraft users".
TAG Farnborough chief executive Brandon O’Reilly says the 2016 UK vote to leave the EU is contributing significantly to the airport's strong performance. "Brexit has resulted in a lot of opportunity-driven travel, with many individuals and businesses flying into and out of the country looking for investment prospects," he notes. "We hope this will continue for some time."
Traffic from Europe accounted for the largest movement hike by region in 2017, at 13%. This was followed by Africa and Asia, each recording a 10% rise over the previous year.
TAG Farnborough is also benefiting, O’Reilly says, from the increasingly congested and slot-constrained commercial airports around London – such as Heathrow and Luton – which are squeezing out business aircraft traffic in favour of the more lucrative airlines. "Many customers are now turning their backs on these very busy, large airports in favour of dedicated business aviation facilities like ours," he says.
This is particularly true for owners of large-cabin, long-range business jets and VIP airliners, which are heading to the Farnborough site in increasing numbers. According to the airport, annual movements have risen year on year since 2006, reaching 7,300 take-offs and landings between January and December 2017. "With a movement ceiling of 50,000, we still have plenty of room to grow," says O’Reilly. "But we will do this in a gradual and considered way."
Meanwhile, the company is hoping to receive approval from the UK Civil Aviation Authority this quarter to reclassify the airspace around the facility to permit safer and more efficient departures for operators.
At present, the airport sits in unclassified, albeit highly complex, airspace, thanks to the relative proximity of both Heathrow and Gatwick airports, alongside several nearby general aviation fields and the Royal Air Force's Odiham base.
“Hopefully it will achieve all the objectives. Improved environmental performance, noise reduction, more efficient use of airspace and improved safety,” says O’Reilly.