• Wed. Oct 5th, 2022

London Oxford Airport struggles to maintain air services

ByKimberly A. Brochu

Aug 8, 2022

When you think of London airports, six usually come to mind. City, Gatwick, Heathrow, Luton, Southend and Stansted all serve the UK capital with commercial flights. However, another UK airport also has the prefix “London”. London Oxford Airport is located just outside the famous university city, but has not been so commercially successful.

A Brief History of London Oxford Airport

Oxford City Council established Kidlington Airport, approximately 10km north-north-west of the ‘City of Dreaming Spires’, in 1935. Its purpose at the time was to act as a municipal airport , although this changed with the outbreak of World War II. Known as RAF Kidlington, it housed various squadrons during the conflict.

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After the war, Kidlington Airport quickly grew in importance as a general aviation facility. Indeed, at the end of the 1960s, it knew more than 200,000 annual aircraft movements. This ranked it second in the country by this metric, just 10% lower than London Heathrow.

The airport’s runway 01/19 is approximately 1,550 meters (5,100 ft) long and has an asphalt surface. British entrepreneurs David and Simon Reuben bought the facility in 2007. Under the ownership of these property investors, who The Times named Britain’s second richest family in May 2020, the airport began to adopt a more commercial approach.


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Air services begin

2009 saw scheduled air services begin at the airport. At this point its name changed to London Oxford Airport, which faced opposition from the Oxford Civic Society. The group claimed that title was misleading, given that it is nearly 100km (62 miles) and over an hour’s drive from central London.

Nonetheless, the name stuck, in the hope that it would raise the airport’s international profile. Its first scheduled air service operated from July to September in 2009, when Air Southwest operated a weekly rotation to Jersey.

The airport’s most publicized international route followed in December that year, when Swiss regional carrier Baboo launched weekly flights throughout the winter season to Geneva with De Havilland Dash 8-400. The airline has partnered with Alitalia to give passengers the option of connecting Rome to Geneva.


London Oxford Airport from the air. Photo: Getty Images

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Restricted to the British Isles

Since this brief period of connectivity with mainland Europe, regular services from Oxford have remained in the British Isles. Varsity Express announced the launch of a service to Edinburgh in January 2010. However, it only lasted a week, operating only 11 flights before the airline closed in March 2010.

Two years later Manx2 announced that it would begin a daily scheduled service to Jersey and the Isle of Man in May this year. With relatively high load factors of around 60%, Manx2 added service to Belfast this summer. However, bookings dropped in winter and service ceased in January 2013.

Motorsport events often prompt larger aircraft to appear in Oxford on a charter basis. Photo:
James on Flickr

Minoan Air served Dublin and Edinburgh from Oxford for five months in 2013. However, load factors were low, with 6,000 passengers traveling on 500 scheduled flights during this period. With an average of 12 passengers per flight, that left his Fokker 50s barely a quarter full. Finally, Blue Islands briefly restored the weekly Jersey service from Oxford in 2014, from May to September.

Lack of business success

The fact that no airline has been able to maintain service to Oxford hints at a bigger problem for the airport. Its limited size means it can only serve regional destinations, and ground transportation to the airport is also minimal.

In addition, Oxford is well within the catchment area of ​​the much larger and more established Birmingham and London Heathrow airports, both of which served the same destinations as those targeted by Oxford. As such, there is little to persuade area passengers to fly from their local regional airport.

The airport serves an important purpose today, as a hub for pilot training. Like Gothenburg City Airport, it has again offered impressive general aviation facilities since scheduled passenger services ceased. It will certainly be interesting to see if regular flights return there one day. In any case, it is promised a bright future, Airbus having undertaken to build a HQ of helicopters of 50 million dollars there.

Recent visit from ITA Airways

In terms of traffic and aircraft movements, London Oxford Airport is particularly busy during motorsport season. This is because it is the closest airport to the famous Silverstone circuit in neighboring Northamptonshire, where the British Grand Prix for Formula 1 and Moto GP takes place.

Silverstone having hosted the Moto GP British Grand Prix this weekend, Oxford was the subject of a particularly interesting visitor. As seen in the video above, the facility saw an ITA Airways Airbus A319 touch down on August 3, arriving from Rome via Bologna. The jet’s registration was EI-IMM.

A quick look FlightRadar24.com also shows that several private jets left Oxford for Italy, a country with a strong motorcycle racing pedigree, earlier this morning. They flew to Lugano, Milan and Rome.

Have you ever flown to or from London Oxford Airport? Would you like scheduled services to return to the facility? Let us know your thoughts and experiences in the comments!

Sources: Anna.aero, Oxford Mail, The temperature