Everyone knows we’re huge fans of the beautiful town of Newquay; it’s why so many of our Zero Carbon Smart Homes are located there. With stunning shores, exquisite food and plenty of festivities, it’s impossible to resist. (Take a look at our guide to life in Newquay for even more.) However, we’re glad to know we’re not the only fans of amenities in the area: this ‘superfan’, Julia Buckley, wrote an article in the Independent yesterday announcing that Newquay Airport is the best in the country. As the UK’s fastest growing airport, the following is what she had to say about why.
Last Thursday, I left for work at 6.40am in order to get to the office in Central London for 9.30am. What a commute, you might say, thinking I must live a bus ride away from the end of the Metropolitan line. And it is. But that’s because I live in Cornwall.
Under three hours to travel 250 miles door-to-door isn’t bad at all – and the main reason why commuting for me and my ilk is so doable is Newquay Airport.
In February, Newquay – or Cornwall Airport Newquay, as it’s officially (and confusingly) named – was announced as the fastest growing airport in the UK. Last week, as I was making my way to Gatwick, it hit the local news. Figures just released for the financial year showed a 50 per cent year-on-year boost in passengers; the first eight weeks of 2017 were up 37 per cent on 2016. Newquay might just clinch the fastest growing title two years running – the airport predicts 435,000 passengers will fly this financial year.
Last month, Newquay launched two brand new routes: Ryanair to Faro and Aer Lingus to Cork. Flybe, which has stood with the airport through thick and thin, has doubled its Manchester flights to two a day, and is adding more capacity to Edinburgh, Birmingham, Belfast and Glasgow.
A codeshare with Aer Lingus saw the start of transatlantic routes via Dublin, where customers will clear US Customs in Ireland, meaning that on arrival in the US they’ll be treated like domestic passengers, instead of having to brave the notorious American immigration lines.
So what has made Newquay’s growth so stratospheric, and what can other airports learn from it? As a regular commuter, here’s where I think it excels. And I’m not just talking about its location, perched on the top of the Cornish cliffs, which (not that I’m biased) makes for one of the most spectacular approaches in Europe.
There are two car parks at Newquay, flanking the terminal. While this is swiftly becoming a problem (I got what appeared to be the last spot on Thursday), it means that no parking space is more than a three-minute walk from check-in or arrivals. The car parks are outdoors and single level, so there’s no navigating the one-way system in a dark multi-storey.
You used to have to pay to park for any longer than 15 minutes, which meant cars would pull in on verges, around nearby laybys and clog the immediate roads in order to dodge the charges when dropping off or picking up. Nowadays, everyone gets 60 minutes free parking, so there’s none of the constantly circling, engine-running gridlock of airports that charge for parking. A loss of income for the airport, but a win for the all-important passenger experience.
Public transport is limited, as a local news story warned last week, but there are buses hanging around for most of the flights, and competition keeps taxi prices relatively reasonable.
Yes Newquay’s small, but that doesn’t always correspond with being user-friendly – just look at Exeter or London City Airport, which both suffer from scrums and pile-ups at the gate. Maybe it’s thanks to the £5 airport development fee which was charged on departing flights until last March, but the airy terminal with high ceilings (a fancy version of a giant barn), plenty of seating and a clear route through security to the gate mean it’s easy to get around. Even better, there’s no duty free gauntlet to run, unlike at larger airports like Gatwick or Manchester. You check in, go through security, and sit at the gate. There’s food, drink and magazines to buy: sorted.
Equally, that means customers behave better, because there’s nowhere to get lost. You rarely hear passengers being summoned over the tannoy at Newquay, because there’s no bar for them to be holed up at, changing room for them to be stuck in, or perfume section to be dazzled by. Boarding tends to be so quick and organised, it’s almost Teutonic.
Check-in for a Flybe domestic flight closes 20 minutes before the plane leaves. That means for my 7.30am flight to Gatwick, turning up at 7am gives me plenty of time. Compare that with the two hours genuinely needed at Gatwick, and you have a winner. Obviously the larger the airport, the more chaotic it is and the more time you should leave – but much of the time it takes to reach the plane at, say, Gatwick South Terminal, for the return flight to Newquay, is down to winding through the maze of duty free post-security and queuing for the inadequate number of toilets.
Arriving at Newquay? This is one place you won’t mind having checked in your bags. They’re normally on the belt before the last person is off the plane. It’s amazingly organised.
Service with a smile
Newquay staff are efficient, as lots of airport staff are; but they’re also kind, as many aren’t. And they go the extra mile. When I was off work for two years, crippled by a chronic pain condition, the special assistance staff at Newquay were genuinely my link to the outside world. I wasn’t well enough to sit for four-plus hours on the train, or to face rail staff who treated me like cargo, but these guys made it possible for me to travel.
All airports are legally obliged to provide special assistance to disabled passengers, of course, but Newquay staff go beyond their legal obligations and try to make your flight actively pleasurable. With me, they used to fiddle with the seatmap to allocate the most comfortable seat for my needs (as opposed to where the computer dumps disabled passengers) and would help me onboard with such kindness that it made it possible to travel. I’m not the only one they help – they have held open days for people with fear of flying and all kinds of disabilities, to try and show them what the airport experience is actually like. And they were the first in the country to order Aviramps, ramps which make the boarding process for wheelchair users easier and more dignified than hi-lifts or manual carry-ons.
I’ve seen staff be kind to elderly passengers, as well as families struggling with babies and buggies – but their general niceness extends to everyone, and rubs off on people too, so that there’s none of the normal sense of airport stress at Newquay. The only equivalent experience I’ve felt is flying Air New Zealand to LA – they have the same boutique feel, which means you’re less harried, less stressed, and less fearful about the flight.
Newquay isn’t perfect – for starters, its newfound popularity means that the car parks are perilously close to full as the summer season starts (they’re adding 91 spaces imminently), and last week I had to queue for the (three) toilets for the first time in five years. But in a month where we’ve seen passengers being forcibly dragged off planes, endure extra security measures and get ‘hit’ by flight attendants, the smooth operators at Newquay are a beacon of hope in the increasingly fraught aviation world.
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