Buyer sought for nose-diving Durham Tees Valley Airport

Peel Airports has put their 75% stake of the airport up for sale, as it is losing money had too few passengers. Most airports have seen a drop in traffic, but for Durham Tees Valley it’s been more of a nose-dive than a controlled descent. In 2006, more than 900,000 passengers passed through its doors. This year that will have come down to 200,000. The recession has hit and airlines have also increasingly deserted Durham Tees Valley for the safety of bigger airports.

15.12.2011  (BBC – North  East and Cumbria)
Durham Tees Valley Airport terminal
Durham Tees Valley Airport has been put up for sale by majority shareholder Peel Airports.
 Airports are supposed to be places of excitement and possibility as travellers bustle in and out of the terminal. But frankly Durham Tees Valley Airport feels full of anything but possibility.

When I arrived to film there at 3pm, it was almost desolate inside, with no sign of a passenger.

The newsagents and bar were closed, the café deserted, the check-in desks empty.

The airport travel agency was optimistically open, but had no customers, and I’m guessing that most of the brochures were not offering flights from Durham Tees Valley.

It did liven up when around 40 people turned up for a flight to Amsterdam. Most were foreign students heading home for Christmas.

Many were grumbling about the £6 facility fee all passengers have to pay for the privilege of using the airport.

But once they had passed through to the departure lounge, the sense of desolation soon returned.

Declining passengers

It was a clear illustration of why the company that runs the airport has put its 75% stake up for sale.

In its official statement Peel Airports said it had made the decision because: “(Durham Tees Valley) no longer fits within the company’s strategic plans for its portfolio of airports.”

To translate, that means it just has too few passengers.

Most airports have seen a drop in traffic, but for Durham Tees Valley it’s been more of a nose-dive than a controlled descent.

In 2006, more than 900,000 passengers passed through its doors. This year that will have come down to 200,000.

Rising taxes

There are a whole host of factors you can blame.

The problems in the North East economy will have depressed demand, as will have rising aviation taxes.

Airlines have also increasingly deserted Durham Tees Valley for the safety of bigger airports.

Empty seats at Durham Tees Valley Airport
The empty seats say it all – Durham Tees Valley Airport has seen a big decline in passengers

Some have even pinned the decline on the decision to change the airport’s name (it was Teesside until 2004).

And then of course there is that facility fee.

But whatever the cause, this is an airport struggling to survive.

Yet Peel Airports does believe it can be sold as a going concern.

Director Steve Gill said: “Already we are talking to a few interested parties who have expressed a keen interest in looking at the option of acquiring the business.

“We feel there will be a future owner who will have the capability to turn the airport round and take it back to where it should be.”

But is that realistic at a time of economic turbulence and rising air passenger duty?

Alternative uses

Peel argues that despite those difficulties, projections still suggest more people will be travelling by air in a decade’s time.

It just depends whether a company will be prepared to tough it out in the short to medium term.

The danger is that no airport operator comes forward and alternative uses have to be found.

That’s certainly the concern of Stockton South Conservative MP James Wharton.

He said: “We wouldn’t want to see the airport become an industrial or housing estate, not just because of the effect on the local economy, but also because of the potential impact on people living nearby who wouldn’t want to see more traffic and further housing out of this development.”

That was echoed by Sedgefield Labour MP Phil Wilson.

He said: “I want to see the airport flourish in the future and I do not want to see the land to be sold off for a housing development, so Peel’s confirmation that it wants to sell it as a going concern is welcome.

“I have also asked the Transport Minister to meet with me and a cross-party group of MPs from the area to discuss the importance of Peel’s announcement and what else can be done to secure the future of the airport.”

Passengers checking in at Durham Tees Valley Airport
Passengers check in for a flight to Amsterdam but the airport owners say there are too few people using the services

Its future was also raised at Prime Minister’s Questions by Darlington MP Jenny Chapman.

David Cameron told her that the big issue for the airport was investment and not ownership.

The question is, will Durham Tees Valley find an owner who wants to invest, or might it have had its moment?

One thing’s for sure, you only need to visit there on a winter’s afternoon to know that something has to change if it is to survive.


Durham Tees Valley Airport ‘must rid itself of passenger burden’

5.1.2012  (Northern Echo)


DURHAM Tees Valley Airport should turn its back on passenger flights in order to secure its immediate future, according to a group representing the interests of private aircraft owners.

The airport, which made a loss of more than £2m in the last full financial year, has seen passenger numbers plummet in recent years and was put up for sale last month by its majority shareholder, Peel Airports Limited.

John Elliott, a director of the Durham Tees Valley Airport Private Owners’ Group, who has flown privately from the airport for more than 20 years, said a rethink was now required to avoid the risk of total closure.

In an open letter, which has been sent to MPs and neighbouring local authorities, the group said it had witnessed the decline of the airport and was not surprised it was being put up for sale or “likely to close”.

It said: “Despite the call for investment in the airport, it is clear what it really needs is stabilisation, in order that it is preserved for a future time, a decade ahead or more, when a recovery of passenger traffic may return.

“Who is going to invest in a failing airport with two other large airports close by?”

The group said the airport should rid itself of the burden of the high cost of handling passenger traffic and operate for the time being as a general aircraft airfield, meeting the needs of airport-based businesses, as well as freight aircraft, the police and air ambulance, and flying clubs.

Mr Elliott said: “Attempts have been made to make it a successful passenger airport for many years and it is clearly not going to happen.

“What we are saying is at least retain it in a viable state for eventual development in the future when economic circumstances may change, which is better than losing it altogether as an airfield.

“We are concerned about the loss of the airport, and the choice may have to be between a slimmed-down operation as a general aircraft airfield or nothing at all.”

Responding to the letter, a spokesman for Peel said: “Future operations at the airport would be a matter for any prospective buyer.”

Meanwhile, in a separate development, a spokeswoman for international aviation company Cobham, which is based at the airport, confirmed it had been in talks with Peel about the airport’s future, although she would not comment when asked if it was possible the firm could leave the site.

Monica Hallman said: “Cobham is a significant operator from Durham Tees Valley Airport and has been in discussion with Peel about its future.

We look forward to discussing our operations there with the prospective new owners.”

Cobham, which provides civil and military flight inspection services, has a multimillion pound contract with the Ministry of Defence and employs about 50 people in the region.

Peel serve councils ‘dilution notice’ on Durham Tees Valley Airport

10.12.11 Local authorities on Teesside have been ordered to pay £4.3m to retain their current stake in Durham Tees Valley Airport, the Journal reports. They have been informed by majority owners Peel Airports Limited (PAL) that they must either pay the cash or face a reduction in their shareholdings. Peel has informed Stockton Council – the lead of the six local authority shareholders – of its intention to serve a ‘dilution notice’. That means unless the councils of Stockton, Middlesbrough, Redcar and Cleveland, Hartlepool, Darlington and Durham, agree to proportionately match investments made by Peel, their shareholding will be reduced At the moment they hold shares of 25%. However, these will be reduced to 10.8% if the money is not contributed.  (UK Airport News  link)

More information about the airport at  Durham Tees Valley Airport 

 and     Durham Tees Valley Airport News