THE DAY after the devastating news it was losing its flagship route, 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 per cent, resulting in a charge of £30.10 per passenger which Teesside bosses branded “impossible” to afford. 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. Picture: SARAH CALDECOTTLoganair has pulled out of the Teesside to London Heathrow route. Picture: SARAH CALDECOTT

The Northern Echo: Tees Valley mayor Ben Houchen at Teesside Airport. Picture: SARAH CALDECOTTTees Valley mayor Ben Houchen at Teesside Airport. Picture: SARAH CALDECOTT

Read more: Holidaymakers jet off on first TUI flight from Teesside Airport

“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. 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.

Read more: Teesside Airport's London route cancelled by Loganair

The Northern Echo:

The Northern Echo: Passengers queue ahead of their flight on Tuesday. Picture: SARAH CALDECOTTPassengers queue ahead of their flight on Tuesday. Picture: SARAH CALDECOTT

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. “

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