Manchester’s new ‘private terminal’ will open in November – is this the way forward for the industry or will it be a white elephant?

Manchester airport last week opened bookings for its new private terminal, PremiAir, which can be used at a cost starting from GBP50 per passenger. It will initially be available for selected dates from 11-Nov-2019 and a wider range of dates will be opened to users closer to launch. It is the first major commercial airport in the UK to introduce a private terminal.


Summary:

  • Manchester Airport will open its private terminal – the first in the UK – in November;
  • There will be four pricing packages to use it, starting at GBP50 one way;
  • Only a small number of airlines have signed up to it as yet.

There are not actually many of them anywhere. One of the best-known current examples is at Los Angeles International (LAX), which has a different system, by which users pay an annual fee of USD7,500 plus separate user charges.

The main features of PremiAir are faster baggage processing, a lounge and security channel and private car transfers. The innovation was previously featured in by The Blue Swan Daily  back in Feb-2019 along with others like a car-sharing service and ‘pod’ electric cars at Manchester. That report concluded that on paper these ‘disruptive’ innovations look attractive but may be pie-in-the-sky or just ‘plane’ unworkable, but the private terminal was highlighted as the one most likely to succeed.

SEE RELATED REPORT: ‘Airbnb for airports’, pod terminal transport and a private terminal – Manchester Airport scores big on innovation, but do ideas make sense?

PremiAir is being promoted as a “private jet experience” and will offer four different types of package:

  • The Priority Departures package for GBP50 per person is promoted as “perfect for guests travelling with hand luggage only, with the convenience of arriving just 60 minutes before their flight to enjoy a personal welcome, use of a dedicated security channel and luxury transfer to their departure gate.”
  • The Premium Departures package for GBP100 per person is described as “along with all the benefits of Priority, guests can relax in an elegant lounge with impressive runway views and enjoy complimentary food and drinks whilst their hold luggage is processed.”
  • The Arrivals package for GP125 per person is portrayed thus: “Guests will enjoy a luxury transfer to the PremiAir terminal, with use of a dedicated passport control channel and access to all of the benefits the PremiAir lounge has to offer while their hold luggage is collected and personally returned to them”.
  • Finally, Round Trip packages for GBP175 (Priority) or GBP225 (Premium) per person permit business travellers to use “well-equipped professional spaces” although the promotional material does not make it clear if there is an additional charge for those.

Arrangements can be made for groups of up to 50 guests to book PremiAir’s Suites, with prices “available on enquiry.” One would assume the airport is targeting business, event and leisure affinity groups here and not, say, football supporters, although professional sports teams and their entourages might fit the bill. Certainly not stag and hen party groups and there are many of those both out of and into Manchester.

It isn’t clear why selected dates only are available from November but it could be because not enough airlines have signed up to ‘PremiAir’ yet. Those that have include Thomas Cook Airlines, whose future is currently uncertain as its tour operator parent seeks a buyer for the business. Also Oman Air, Ethiopian Airlines, Pakistan International Airlines and TAP Air Portugal, with more airlines expected to make the PremiAir service available to their customers by the time the terminal opens.

In the case of Oman Air, PremiAir would make for a useful bolt-on client benefit as it challenges the ‘Middle East Big 3’ at Manchester for transfer traffic (Emirates Airline, Qatar Airways and Etihad Airways). Similarly with Ethiopian, which will be targeting East, South and even West African traffic from and to Manchester. In the case of PIA and TAP the benefits to them might be a little less tangible.

The model would appear to include a significant charge to airlines as well as to passengers (or in lieu of their fee?) because otherwise why have more airlines not have signed up? One would expect flag carrier airlines with a high ratio of business passengers and extensive ‘beyond’ hub operations to be interested in this feature and especially if they already offer an executive chauffeur service to get their clients to Manchester in the first place.

There will inevitably be teething troubles but as long as enough airlines sign up to it (but not too many as this evidently small terminal would quickly fill up to capacity) passenger demand is likely to make it a success. It is hard to see it becoming a white elephant.