Regional airports may work out well for us flying folk, or they may not. In case of such a mid-sized transport hub being located hours away from any city – or tourist attraction for that matter – with expensive private airport transfers the only means of getting to your final destination it is the latter option. If however an hourly or so shuttle service connects terminal with town centre, flights are at regular intervals and affordable and above all else if we can use another regional airport at the other end, too, the first option becomes reality, one of which might just be waiting at our doorsteps – in a number of years that is, if ever.
Having mentioned that quite often consumer lobbies are the most powerful in the country let us consider a new route with enormous potential – London Southend Airport (yes, indeed, revamped and renamed) and Söke Airport (perhaps getting an altogether different name and still in the planning stages, actually not even there yet).
Let me start by first commenting on recently re-floated plans to build a regional airport in Söke, our neighboring market town, brand-new Kipa/Outlet center destination, court location and coach terminal, all respectively.
Assuming that the airport would be somewhere near to our brand-new shopping centre and the wind energy turbines – i.e. in the low lying areas yet without danger of being flooded – accessibility seems guaranteed. The distance to our very own holiday resort of Kuşadası is negligible. If costs are met by a public-private partnership (PPP) or build-operate-transfer contract mode financing should be no obstacle either. If no areas of historical interest or private dwellings are under threat our neighbors in Söke might as well say ‘yes’. The key question is nevertheless whether we, as the potential flying public together with our Turkish friends who are increasingly en route to the UK and elsewhere will say ‘yes’, too? Would they and we fly in and out of Söke instead of İzmir or Bodrum? And if so, from and to where? Besides, for what ticket price? And last not least, during which part of what season?
Hence, let me then comment about London Southend Airport and how I came up with the idea to link the ‘two S’. A piece in The Guardian
(http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/mar/04/london-southend-airport?CMP=twt_fd) and re-published on Twitter last Saturday March 3rd 2012 reminded me of the fact that sometime in the mid to late – 1980’s, closer to the year 1987 if I recall correctly, I had boarded one of Richard Branson’s at that time just about emerging Virgin Airlines fleet planes. I took off from Oostend and touched down in Southend-on-Sea. Yes, the plane had been delayed on the Belgian side where I used to work at the time and it was a propeller powered aircraft, not a jetliner. Surprise at the English side, too, as due to the delay the promised shuttle bus to the local train station did never materialize, so a few of us shared a cab and then continued our journey into London by train. The initial lure had been price – 50% off the then regular BA and SABENA week-end saver tickets (which were just under 90 Pound Sterling). The drawback – only one flight per day, difficult to get to Oostend unless you already lived in Belgium and knew how to use the domestic rail network and as I wrote above, a rather mismanaged connection into Southend-on-Sea itself.
However, now that the airport is getting bigger, local people support its expansion and if all teething problems can be overcome it could be a very practical hub for all of us residing someplace east of London as well for those living in the East of, or Central London.
The same can be said for Söke. If connections are good, timetables reflect passenger demand and ticket prices do not skyrocket there could indeed be potential to ask for direct flights between the ‘two S’ once the second one is – if ever – up and running.
The Southern Aegean Development Agency is about to discuss impacts on the environment and region and I am looking forward to meeting with them in the near future to listen to their considerations and how Kuşadası would benefit.
As a neighboring Mayor said already in 2009 and after the idea for a local airport had been making its rounds for almost two decades Didim’s Mümin Kamacı expressed that there was a plan to build an airport in the lower part of Söke: ‘if an airport is built there, it will be 45 minutes from here at the most. This airport would benefit (both) Söke, Kuşadası and Didim.’
What is your opinion? Looking forward to hearing from you!