AIRPORT officials have secured an operator deal they hope will ease North-East holidaymakers’ Monarch heartache.

Leeds Bradford Airport is working with Thomas Cook on new routes to Turkey, Tunisia, Cyprus and Spain’s Balearic Islands.

Boss David Laws last night told The Northern Echo that Thomas Cook’s arrival will be a major fillip for the airport and travellers following carrier Monarch’s grounding earlier this week, which caused misery for hundreds of thousands of people.

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However, Mr Laws also revealed the airport, where he took over as chief executive earlier this year, has thrashed out a further arrangement with existing operator Jet2, which will deliver thousands of seats for winter holidays to Tenerife.

He added Ryanair and Tui will be providing new services too.

The moves were finalised in the hours following the collapse of Monarch, which ran services from Leeds Bradford, and Mr Laws said he was delighted to be offering holidaymakers fresh choice, hailing particularly the arrival of Thomas Cook.

Mr Laws, who was previously chief executive at Newcastle Airport, told The Northern Echo: “We were one of the UK airports affected by Monarch’s administration because we had base aircraft here, so the impact on us has been fairly significant.

“But, while we have been focusing on getting people home and working with the Civil Aviation Authority, it has been business as usual.

“We have done fantastically well in a short space of time and for that I have to give great credit to my team.

“There was a lot of disruption and sadness with Monarch, but my team have really rolled up their sleeves and got this done in the last 48 hours.

“It has been a tremendous effort and it’s exciting times for this airport.”

Mr Laws, who was formerly a fireman, football referee and North East England Chamber of Commerce president, said Thomas Cook’s commitment was a sign of his intent in his new role.

He added: “We’ve got Thomas Cook coming in and it’s fantastic to get a brand like that here.

“They have a real retail presence and the fact they are bringing their kit into this airport is fantastic for everyone.

“We’re excited to have a tour operator with 150 years’ experience behind it on the back of the developments we are going to be doing at this airport.

“I think what is also great is that their flights will include Tunisia again. Jet2 has also stepped up and we’re grateful for them coming in at short notice on this.

“What we need now is for the people of County Durham, Teesside and North Yorkshire to show the airlines, including Thomas Cook, that they have taken the right action by getting behind them.”