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Picture special: Campaigners wave off final KLM flight from Manston Airport as site remains under threat of closure

By Chris Price

There were tears as campaigners waved off the final KLM passenger flight from Manston Airport.

Nearly 50 protestors watched the plane leave at 10.35am on Wednesday, holding banners and wearing t-shirts bearing the words “Keep Calm and Save Manston”.

Dutch airline KLM revealed it will not return to the airport regardless of what happens after the 45-day consultation on its closure.

The last KLM flight leaves Manston

Many campaigners remain hopeful a deal can be struck to keep the site open, which has been welcoming planes since the First World War.

Members of the Unite Union will meet owners today to discuss a rescue plan for the site and see if they can extend the consultation period beyond May 11.

Yet all acknowledged KLM’s decision is a huge setback in the fight to save it.

Save Manston campaigner Ruth Bailey, 57, Granville Road, Broadstairs, said: “We came here to show solidarity with the staff who are losing the jobs.

Campaigners at Manston Airport
Passengers board the last KLM service from Manston

“It is a big blow that KLM are pulling out but we hope it doesn’t ring the death nell for the airport. We are still fighting for it.

“We are hoping there can be alternative arrangements, perhaps to make it a cargo port.

“It is the end of an era. It’s very very sad.”

Shortly after the final flight left, Jenny Milligan, 65, of Princes Garden, Cliftonville, said: “I feel very emotional. I actually wanted to cry.

Onlookers see the last KLM flight as it prepares to take off
Campaigners Ruth Bailey, left, and Jenny Milligan, centre, wave off the final KLM flight with other protestors

“I never thought this would actually happen and seeing all the firemen, airport crew and flight crew standing out there and waving off the last passenger plane, my heart went out to them.

“Any decent businessperson would take over a business and fight to keep it up and running, and to make a profit. I feel that’s not been done here.

“They’ve bought it and given up within a few months. There has been no fight to bring new business to the airport.

“It isn’t only the 150 people who work here. It is the outlying businesses that run from here. The transport companies that pick up freight and the mini cab services that drop people off. All those businesses are going to be losing their trade as well.”

The KLM flight's last moments on the Manston airstrip
Ruth Bailey has set up a new campaign group Supporters of Manston Airport

David Wallin, 43, of Dent-de-lion, Westgate-on-Sea, said: “It was the last KLM flight but it’s not the last plane over Manston and not the last commercial plane over Manston. There will be passengers plans coming back.

“There is a lot of hope that something will happen and another airline will come in soon.

“The British way is to never surrender. That is what Churchill said and that’s what we’re doing.”

More pictures in next week's Thanet Extra.

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