MILLIONS of pounds of investment and hundreds of jobs are about to come to the region thanks to one of the most crucial advances in Teesside International Airport's history.

As revealed by The Northern Echo, budget airline bmibaby has chosen the airport near Darlington, to be its fourth hub.

The growth potential for business and tourism resulting from the decision has been described as enormous.

Tony Davis, bmibaby managing director, said the company was committed to basing two aircraft at Teesside.

The move will mean the creation of 50 jobs - 20 pilots and 30 cabin crew - at the airport.

But if bmibaby services are successful, Mr Davis said it was likely that a third aircraft would be introduced at Teesside, giving the airline the capacity to carry a million passengers a year.

Experts estimate this would amount to an extra 1,000 jobs on Teesside.

Mr Davis would not speculate about the number of routes out of Teesside, but when similar sized operations were set up in Cardiff, bmibaby flew to nine destinations.

Yesterday's announcement was seen as vindication for the decision by the five local authorities which owned the airport to sell a large stake to Peel Holdings, which pledged to invest £20m to transform the operation.

Councillor Bob Gibson, chairman of the joint shareholders committee, said: "This is an extremely important day for Teesside Airport.

"Already we see the justification for the moves the shareholders made when we decided to include the private sector in the future of the airport."

Hugh Lang, managing director of the airport, said efforts would be made to bring new business to the region from abroad, as well as offering low-cost flights.

He said: "The airport will be working closely with the airline to ensure the success of the new services and expects a very positive response from the North-East public.

"The target will be to attract between 25 per cent and 30 per cent inbound traffic from the overseas destinations and the airport will be working closely with bmibaby to promote the region as a whole to both inbound tourism and business traffic."