Flybe’s decision to pull out of Manston is another blow to the airport, especially disappointing at the turn of the year.
However attractive we in Kent think Manston is, it seems that not enough people agree.
Flybe’s bold experiment to run flights to Edinburgh, Manchester and Belfast was welcomed, but once again it ends in disappointment. The Manchester service was pulled some time ago, and the Belfast operation was grounded at the end of the summer.
Edinburgh has been popular with leisure flyers, students, servicemen and women, and some business folk. But the lack of a day round trip made it inconvenient for business.
It was a similar disappointment a few years ago when the Irish-based airline EUjet went belly-up after stretching itself over too many services.
So despite the smiles on the ebullient airport CEO Charles Buchanan, Manston has a problem with scheduled passenger services. What message does Flybe's decision send to other would-be operators?
Manston has no difficulty with freight - including horses through its new equine centre - and charter flights to holiday places in the summer do pretty well. Car parking is a breeze. Two minutes after unloading the boot, you are in the terminal.
Yet there just doesn’t seem to be a big enough market for scheduled services. Why is this? OK, the downturn has not helped but there must surely be something more fundamental than that.
One factor is constrained night-time flying. Thanet council should back the airport's modest demands, despite opposition from some residents. It would, after all, be good for jobs and local people desperately need them.
Manston ought to be the solution to over-crowding at Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted. But the Kent terminal with one of the longest runways in the UK has been largely overlooked in official reports, even though senior Kent people are always talking up its credentials.
Manston’s disadvantage is that it’s more than 60 miles from London. At the eastern end of the UK, It is not surrounded by chimney pots. But remote airports are not seen as a disadvantage by the likes of Ryanair and EasyJet who bus people miles from a cheap out-of-town terminal.
Roads like the Thanet Way are pretty good but potential customers from South East London probably think they are worse than they are.
So make it easy. A Manston Parkway station and dedicated high-speed railway –a “Manston Express?” – would make a huge difference. The Regional Growth Fund allocated some welcome cash for a track upgrade. For a fraction of the cost of a Boris Island or Foster's Grain proposal, upgraded links would transform Manston's image. It would be great to see politicians "getting it" in 2012.
But the sad truth at the moment is that investors - and other scheduled operators - will be wary of committing to a terminal that keeps suffering setbacks.