It seems unbelievable that Gozo does not have a working airport
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My family and I are regular visitors to Gozo: my Mother-in-Law lives there. My wife returned home to the UK yesterday after a dreadful crossing to Malta in a Force 8 gale, where the ferry was forced to go to the north of Comino, adding an extra ten nausea-inducing minutes to the journey time.
From a visitor’s viewpoint, it seems unbelievable that an island the size of Gozo does not have a working airport. Looking at the situation from a European viewpoint, comparisons with facilities on other islands may be useful to highlight just how poorly Gozo is served. I offer the following as a case-study.
Alderney is the third largest of the Channel Island group. With a resident population of 2400, the island is 3 miles (4.8 km) long by 1.5 miles (2.4 km) wide and is situated approximately 10 miles (16km) from the coast of France and 60 miles (97 km) from the south coast of England. Not unnaturally, tourism and for the local population, inter-island and international travel is of major importance and an airport is considered vital. Is this, you may ask, a short grass track with a patch of lumpy tarmac and a dilapidated customs shed? Not a bit of it. Alderney has three operational runways: the main one is 880 m (2,887 ft) long and mainly asphalt. The two secondary runways are both grass: one being 732 m (2,402 ft) long, the other 497 m (1,631 ft).
Currently two airlines use the airport for regular services to the UK, the other Channel Islands and France. The aircraft used are the small ‘Islander’ propeller type: I’ve heard louder bees. Private light aircraft are positively encouraged: landing fees are very reasonable, starting from about £8 depending on aircraft weight, day of arrival and length of stay; parking is free for 72 hours for aircraft weighing less than three metric tonnes. This of course is very attractive to wealthier travellers who may wish to “pop across” for a short break, or even just a pleasant lunch. Yes, I know, not particularly environmentally friendly, but these people are going to fly somewhere to show off their nice shiny Cessnas to their friends, so why not make it attractive for them to land where your businesses will benefit?
So why does an island smaller than Gozo with a smaller population and much fewer tourist facilities have an airport of such a standard? From an outsider’s point of view, this question would seem to me to have a simple answer. Alderney is self-governing.
John A Hall
50 North Street
Essex CB9 7DP