Southampton The Next Aerotropolis


In conversation

Dave Lees

Managing Director Southampton Airport 

Plans for Southampton Airport include proposals to develop an economic gateway that could see hi-tech companies within the current footprint. Managing Director, Dave Lees, shares his thoughts.

Southampton Airport has just enjoyed its busiest December on record and in 2017 it is set to surpass 2 million passengers within a year.

They were recently named Airport of the Year by the European Regions Airline Association but not content with winning awards and plaudits, the airport is planning to make itself a hub for talent and technology within the next five years.  Managing Director Dave Lees is the man with a plan.

“Our aspiration is to develop the green field site to the north east of the airport with a hi-tech or complementary employment zone.

“It would have close proximity with the airport and excellent surface access points,” he explained.

With road, rail (the fastest city centre access of any airport in the UK) and air connections quite literally converging around the airport, Mr Lees is convinced there is an excellent opportunity for high-end research and development and light industrial employment space to take root at the airport and create an economic gateway.

“Newquay Airport Economic Zone is probably the most comparable – Manchester and Newcastle are also looking to achieve this.

“We believe Southampton is well placed because of the transport connections we have and the universities in our region,” he stated.

Talk of economic hubs and gateways, raises the question of Southampton becoming afuture aerotropolis – with the airport at the centre with the city and economic assets radiating around it.

“It’s what we’ve seen in the Far East in places like Hong Kong,” said Dave.

“I’m a firm believer we can be a catalyst for new developments and access to other markets. If organisations are looking to bring their headquarters to this region, we want to be part of the reason why they chose to be here.”

Aerotropolis is defined as a combination of airport, city, shipping and business hub – so the reality is that Southampton could emulate the likes of Bejing and Amsterdam.

“Southampton Airport was originally built for 1.5m people and we would like to grow to welcome in excess of 3m passengers per year.

“The airport has developed considerably over the last 10 years in terms of its infrastructure, as well as the number of routes and airlines that operate.

“The key thing for our future is increasing the connections through Southampton airport for onward destinations,” he explained.

That’s why this winter there will be seven flights a day to Amsterdam from Southampton and the opportunity to connect to flights all over the world.

KLM offers worldwide flights via its hub in Amsterdam, BMI regional launched a new service to Munich and Aer Lingus has direct flights to Cork.

Southampton was also the first airport in the UK to offer scheduled flights with European based airline, Volotea. Flybe alone announced four new routes from Southampton Airport in 2016 including Biarritz, Lyon, Toulon and Paris Charles De Gaulle bringing the total number of routes served by Flybe from Southampton to 33.

“Over 30 per cent of our passengers are business travellers and that is a very strong figure for a regional airport. It underlines the important role we play in connecting people to markets.

“Having four new airlines is hugely, strategically important – and having worldwide airlines coming to Southampton is absolutely fantastic,” he said.

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