LONG-AWAITED flights from Teesside International Airport to Heathrow will operate for the first time in more than a decade, it was announced yesterday.

Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen revealed that Eastern Airways will now fly daily to London Heathrow – one of the busiest airports in the world.

Mayor Houchen said: “It’ll be huge for Teesside. We’re ahead of schedule – I thought it would take us longer but actually we’re in a better place than we thought we would be when we took over and now we’ve got a flight every single day to Heathrow.

“We’re not genuinely connected to the rest of the world with our flight into Amsterdam – but we can fly via Heathrow to New York to Dubai and everywhere in between.

"That’s important for people going on holiday being able to connect easily to the rest of the world through one of the best airports in the world at Heathrow."

He added: “But actually it opens up investment into Teesside as well .

"Being able to say to Asian, North American, African, European investors you can fly direct into Heathrow then switch and fly direct into Teesside just means the world is so much closer to us than it has been for many years now.

“That means that amazing businesses in Teesside are better connected to new clients.

"And while we’re looking at things like the new Teesworks site, we’re also looking at redevelopments in Darlington and Middlesbrough.

"It means we can attract even more investment because the biggest thing about international investment is connectivity and bringing that investment closer to them.

“If you’re from Japan and you have to fly into Manchester then drive or get a train for two-and-a-half hours that doesn’t feel connected to an international investor.

"But when you can book on at Tokyo, say, and change at Heathrow, then fly directly into Teesside you’ll be where you need to be in four or five minutes.

" That is a genuinely connected region and that’s important for jobs.”

The announcement was made at Teesside Airport, where Fiona Carelton, Heathrow Aviation director, made a speech via a Zoom call.

She said: “What we know is when we can get our regions connected into Heathrow there is substantial economic benefits for those areas.

"Heathrow is the only hub airport in the UK, so we can then connect onto at least 182 other destinations worldwide – that matters for cargo, it matters for trade, it matters for people and it matters for tourism.

“So we’re excited about the fact that it opens this opportunity up for businesses and individuals alike in the Teesside area.”

Tickets are on sale now for the service, which is set to begin on Monday, September 14. Tickets start at £54.99.

Paul Howell MP for Sedgefield said: “It’s another fantastic step forward in terms of Teesside Airport.

"At the time, everyone was questioning what Ben was doing in terms of investing in the airport.

"We’re now getting flights back and that’s what everyone would like to see.”

Jessie Joe Jacobs, responding to the announcement about Teesside airport, said: "A new flight from our airport would ordinarily be great news but we are in the middle of a global crisis. That crisis has seen the number of people flying collapse with airlines going bankrupt and airports closing.

"The Mayor needs to be up front with people about the cost of all of this. He's spent £100m on the airport and that's rising. The cost per passenger is huge.

"I’ve been speaking to a number of local people and honestly to those that can’t get a bus off their estate or out of their village, they’re more angry than excited at the amount of their money being spent on securing a flight to London at a time when flying doesn’t feel like a priority

"Today I’ve been speaking to local residents and to those that can’t get a bus off their estate or out of their village.  They’re asking about how much money we're willing to spent on securing a flight to London.

"Politics is about priorities and people across the Tees Valley are left with third rate transport systems while a small minority recieve a huge subsidy to fly to London."