Tees Valley airport loses link to Heathrow. Is the airport even needed?
Heathrow (always keen to make more money) wants to charge the maximum possible on its take-off and landing fees. Airlines and people who like to fly are angry about their trips costing perhaps £10 more than before …. that ignores the fact that rail journeys are hugely more expensive than flights, which are crazily cheap. Teeside airport has now lost its link to Heathrow, as Loganair says it cannot make money on the route, if the Heathrow charges are a bit higher. Councils like the kudos of having an airport, and the Tees Valley Mayor, Ben Houchen, is very keen on the airport increasing its number of passengers are routes, regardless of the increased carbon emissions. Some are asking if there needs to be a Teeside airport, as it is 44 miles from Newcastle airport. The recent launch of a direct train service from Middlesbrough to London means the Heathrow cancellation isn’t much of a loss.
Ben Houchen on TUI, Heathrow and Teesside Airport’s future
11th May 2022
BY BILL EDGAR (The Northern Echo)
THE DAY after the devastating news it was losing its flagship route, to Heathrow, Teesside Airport was keen to bounce back by celebrating the start of new flights to a popular holiday spot.
Holiday firm and airliner TUI welcomed its first passengers to the regional airport on Tuesday as it launched its summer flights to Majorca, Spain.
The flight was the first by the airliner in nine years and passengers have been told to expect further exciting announcements of new destinations from their local airport.
But it comes after a turbulent Monday for the airport, which saw its route to London Heathrow shelved after a sharp increase in take-off and landing fees forced provider Loganair to stop its flights.
The UK’s largest airport has been criticised for hiking its fees by 37%, resulting in a charge of £30.10 per passenger which Teesside bosses branded “impossible” to afford. [Compare this to the train fare, which is probably around £100 …. as aviation pays no VAT and no fuel duty, it is subsidised by taxpayers]. The route has long been seen as crucial to the success of the airport, which was brought into public ownership in 2019, but will end in two weeks.
Yet despite the setback, Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen remained upbeat as he waved off passengers heading on their holidays and insisted the airport will continue to prosper.
The Northern Echo: Loganair has pulled out of the Teesside to London Heathrow route.
“We’re not the first regional airport to be affected by Heathrow hikes and we won’t be the last. It is immensely frustrating because the passenger rates were going up significantly, it was on its way to being a really good, sustainable route,” he told The Northern Echo.
London Heathrow’s actions were described as “daylight robbery” by the Mayor, adding that its cancellation jeopardises the government’s levelling up agenda. [How exactly? So it makes it marginally more difficult for people to take they holiday spending money, to spend abroad?]
Heathrow is accused of “balancing the books post Covid on the backs of people in the north of England” but Mr Houchen insisted he remains open to salvaging a deal with for Teesside.
He added: “I would love for Heathrow to come back to the table to make it more competitive than they currently are. Do I think it will happen? Realistically probably not, but if they want a conversation I am more than happy to have one.”
Celebrating the launch of the first TUI flights, Mr Houchen was thanked by many holidaymakers for his work in the region. And although he admitted the airport will face more challenges along the way, the mayor sees the recent high uptake at the airport as a sign of a positive future.
Mr Houchen said: “We’ve got TUI flying today, Ryanair going out this morning; we will have more flights in the coming months. The only way is up but there are always going to be setbacks with Teesside Airport – it was never going to be a smooth ride irrespective of how much I wish it would be.
“But if you would have said to somebody three years ago when we bought the airport this is where we would be, even with the ups and downs, people would have snatched your hand off.”
What of the claims that Teesside airport isn’t needed on the North East? Many have argued that the recent launch of a direct train service from Middlesbrough to London means the Heathrow cancellation isn’t as big a loss as it could have been.
Mr Houchen added: “It has been a successful airport before and it will become one again. Those people that are disparaging about Teesside Airport do it for political purposes. The Heathrow issue won’t be the last setback, but for now people are happy and going on holiday, and this is what we’re doing it for. “
Tees Valley Mayor pushes for further net zero investment
By March 2021 Teeside airport had liabilities of £27.48m and net assets of £1.8m
Teesside Airport has reported a £13.4m operating loss as the pandemic caused a 90% fall in passenger numbers in the year to March 2021. The airport’s newly published show its turnover for the year fell 38% to £4.8m, down from £7.7m from the year ending March 2020. The number of passengers fell to just 14,521 from 139,448. It incurred £2.73m costs associated with contract termination, including a contact with Close Security Protection. During the year, a total of £20m was drawn down from two loan facilities – a £34.4m facility from Tees Valley Combined Authority and a further £23.6m set up last year to fund development of the airport’s Southside business park. The airport hopes to get thousands more tourists for holiday flights this year, to destinations such as Alicante, Palma, Corfu and Faro. The airport benefited from Government support packages of £886,278 – including £407,439 from the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and £478,839 via the Airport and Ground Operations Support Scheme run by the DfT and used to cover business rates during the period. The accounts show that at the end of March 2021 the airport had liabilities of £27.48m and net assets of £1.8m.