Airport has confirmed it is moving away from holiday flights as it looks to focus on business customers. Joe Willis reports.
DURHAM Tees Valley Airport (DTVA) is to scrap holiday charter flights and focus on business passengers in a bid to survive, bosses have confirmed.
The terminal building will be redesigned and reduced in size with cost-savings measures introduced including self-service check-ins.
Job losses are expected with bosses meeting with unions and staff on Wednesday before details were released to the media.
Airport chiefs say the changes, including the decision to cancel the Thomson/First Choice and Balkan Holidays services from summer 2014, follow an extensive review of the business.
Scheduled daily passenger flights to Schiphol, Amsterdam, operated by KLM, and flights to Aberdeen operated by Eastern Airways will not be affected, the airport said.
Flybe flights operated on behalf of CITS to Jersey will also continue.
DTVA managing director Steve Gill said the airport was being re-positioned, with the focus in the future being on scheduled flights, and aviation and non-aviation businesses based at the airport.
He said the company was aiming to create a bespoke business and general aviation airport, adding: “Small regional airports have been shutting or are facing challenging circumstances across the country and we are at the forefront of an evolving model for their future.”
Mr Gill said the airport would now look to increase the number of scheduled flight destinations.
“We will reset our priorities and provide additional marketing funds and activity to not only boost load factors on existing services but also to increase the number of business services.
“This is more achievable than trying to chase the charter market.”
He said that by cancelling charter flights the airport could reduce its costs in areas such as aviation-related fees, rates, utilities and security, with the smaller terminal opening to coincide with the arrival or departure of flights rather than 24-hours.
The level of fire cover would be maintained, as would the airport infrastructure including the instrument landing system, Mr Gill added.
About 40 per cent of the terminal building will be mothballed, with a new executive lounge planned and a replacement duty free shop and other retail outlets to open.
KLM is working with the airport on the changes to the terminal, bosses said.
The confirmation of the switch in focus comes as the airport finalises its master plan, which will set out how the business will move forward over the next two decades.
The plan is due to be released for consultation in mid-November.
Reacting to the changes, Stockton South Conservative MP James Wharton said: “I have done everything I can to support the airport but this news is a real blow.
“Although welcome that business flights and the KLM service to Schiphol will be retained, the owners risk making a big mistake pushing away holiday business.”
Alex Cunningham, Labour MP for Stockton North, said MPs would be watching closely to ensure the airport delivered its plans.
He added: “Whilst I understand the reasons behind the company’s plans, I very much regret both the loss of jobs and holiday flights both of which will affect people throughout the Tees Valley and beyond.”
The airport is advising anyone who has booked holiday flights to Palma, Ibiza or Bulgaria for 2014 flying from Durham Tees Valley Airport to contact their tour operator or travel agent for advice.