London-area Farnborough Airport Soars to New Heights

 - February 3, 2023, 12:26 PM
Farnborough Airport set a traffic record in 2022 and is now the top business aviation airport in the London area. (Photo: Farnborough Airport)

London-area Farnborough Airport, the UK’s only dedicated business aviation airfield, has smashed its annual aircraft movements record and expects the upward trend to continue this year, airport CEO Simon Geere said yesterday. Driven by sustained demand for business aircraft travel, the airport logged 33,120 takeoffs and landings last year—up from 26,007 in 2021 and 32,366 in its previous record year of 2019.  

The 2022 tally gives Farnborough a 31 percent share of business aircraft movements for London-area airports, followed by Luton (27 percent), Biggin Hill (22 percent), Stansted (10 percent), Northolt (7 percent), and London City (7 percent).

Geere described last year’s performance “impressive” and attributes the increase in movements to the “post-Covid bounce,” which saw travelers turn to business aviation in increasing numbers “and many for the first time.”

The post-Covid bounce is reflected in the change in mix of aircraft operations to the airport, he explained. “Charter flights saw a 4 percent increase in market share, from 16 percent of our movements in 2019 to 20 percent last year. In contrast, the number of flights classed as private and managed fell from 21 to 17 percent and 42 to 40 percent of the market share, respectively.”

Farnborough Airport was sold by TAG Aviation in October 2019 to Australian developer Macquarie Infrastructure and Real Assets, and “the five-star offering has gone from strength to strength,” Geere said.

Sustainability continues to be a key component of the airport’s strategy, with a pledge to be net-zero “for those emissions we control” by 2030 or sooner. “We are putting sustainability at the heart of everything,” he noted. “We want to be a catalyst for change going forward.”

Driving demand for sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) at the airport is a significant part of Farnborough’s green strategy. Last year, the airport launched a three-week initiative offering a 38 percent SAF blend for the same price as regular jet-A. Geere noted the scheme didn’t “move the dial a great deal” in terms of the total fuel dispensed in 2022, but said it did raise awareness among customers and operators.

“It will take time for the industry to fully embrace SAF—and there are logistical, price, and supply issues today—but maybe as a responsible airport, part of our long-term strategy should be limiting our fuel [offering] to SAF,” said Geere.

In the meantime, Farnborough Airport is continuing to enhance its offerings, with a new 175,000-sq-ft hangar (Hangar 3) scheduled to open next January. That will join the site’s 240,000 sq ft of hangarage “and help to attract more based operators to Farnborough—already home to 63, including Flexjet,” according to Geere.

Farnborough Aiport is also “positively changing our brand and values” to be more consumer-driven, he added. “Our goal is to be the world’s leading business aviation airport, setting the standards for premium air travel connectivity and exceptional customer care.” 

To help achieve this goal, Farnborough is introducing a rolling program of brand partnerships at the airport, working with aspirational names who can showcase their brands and products at prime locations throughout the site, including the airport entrance and ramp. “If we could bring the likes of Cartier or Bentley to the airport…we can start to raise the profile within our consumer markets,” concluded Geere.