Subsidy call to bring flights back to Fylde

The Government should step in to support small airports like Blackpool and help them compete with major regional hubs.

Wednesday, 21st September 2016, 6:00 am
Updated Tuesday, 4th October 2016, 1:54 pm
Blackpool Airport's terminal has been demolished
Blackpool Airport's terminal has been demolished

That is the view of Blackpool South MP Gordon Marsden –a former shadow aviation minister who believes there is still hope for the Squires Gate operation.

Mr Marsden’s comments come after airline Jet2 revealed it would not look to return to Blackpool even if the airport re-opened to large commercial jets.

The Labour MP thinks there could be scope to grow the passenger operation at Squires Gate.

But he believes the Government should be getting involved to improve regional airline connections.

Mr Marsden said: “There remains, I believe, good prospects with a committed owner for the future of the airport, both for passenger flights and also expanded commercial activity via the new Enterprise Zone.

“In my previous role last year as Shadow Aviation Minister, I urged the previous Government to look very practically at ways in which the cost obligation on smaller airports like Blackpool could be reduced with Government intervention.”

Mr Marsden believes regulations make it difficult for airports like Blackpool – and other struggling smaller operations – to compete with the likes of Manchester, where millions of passengers annually offset the costs of providing stringent security checks.

He said: “It is unreasonable that smaller airports like Blackpool should have to equal their costs on security and other requirements, as airports elsewhere such as Liverpool and Manchester with at least six or seven times as many passengers a year.

“There’s millions of pounds currently being spent by Government as a subsidy for new one-off flight routes – if some of that were spent on subsidising operator costs for an airport like Blackpool, that would benefit the new owners and the airport’s economic prospects.”

Blackpool Council’s conservative group leader Coun Tony Williams last week wrote off any chance of international flights returning to Blackpool.

He pointed to Jet2’s revelation as the final straw for the airport – which currently has no terminal building capable of handling large passenger volumes and does not have adequate fire cover.

Mr Marsden called on Tories in Blackpool to campaign positively for the airport rather than play down future prospects.

He said:“I repeat my call for the new Government to do something about our operational costs. Local Conservatives would do better to lobby their ministers on such a project, rather than going over a futile past debate on who was right or wrong in the spat between Balfour Beatty and”

In an exclusive interview with The Gazette, Jet2’s executive chairman Philip Meeson made clear his firm was now committed to Manchester.

The airline left Blackpool on October 2014 when owner Balfour Beatty closed the airfield following an unsuccessful attempt to find a buyer.

The airport owner said the facility had been running at a loss and had fought a court case against Jet2.

Squires Gate was then sold to another Balfour Beatty subsidiary and re-opened to small aircraft and helicopter traffic.

Balfour Beatty said the airport was now operating profitably.