Manston Airport is up for sale, it's been revealed.
The shock announcement casts a question mark over the future of the more than 100 staff employed at the Kent International Airport.
Owners Infratil made the announcement at an investor day in Wellington, New Zealand today. Its other UK airport, Prestwick near Glasgow, is also up for sale.
Infratil’s decision arises from a 'refocusing of its investment profile'.
Charles Buchanan, chief executive of Manston Airport (pictured just below left), said: "This represents an opportunity for Manston to build upon the improvements Infratil has already made, and attract new investment into the airport and stimulate the growth needed to make it a success in the future.
"For now and during this process it will be business as usual for the airport.
"I certainly view this as an opportunity to work with new investors whose development strategies and investment profiles more closely match the needs of businesses such as ours at this time."
PwC has been appointed as advisers to help in the sale of Manston.
PwC partner, Coolin Desai, said: "Manston Airport represents a strategic opportunity for an investor in light of the well-documented congestion affecting all major airports serving London and the South East.
"With a runway capable of accommodating large aircraft including 747s, there is significant potential to grow both passenger and cargo traffic."
North Thanet MP Sir Roger Gale (pictured below)has welcomed the decision as "a great opportunity".
He said he understood there was more than one serious player interested in taking over and developing the passenger and cargo potential of Manston.
He added: "With the ongoing debate about the future of aviation in the South East in general, and of the UK as an international hub in particular, it is clearly vital that additional capacity is brought on stream in the immediate future.
"Manston offers the facility to take some of the pressure off Heathrow, via Gatwick and that facility needs to be utilised by an operator and/or airline that will make the most of the, at present, under-used airport."
He said the potential for more jobs was "very considerable indeed", and he hoped for swift transfer to a new owner.
It comes after Infratil asked for regular night-time flying at Manston Airport.
A consultation was launched, which closed last Friday.
Opinion was divided among the local community - with the proposals garnering support as well as stiff opposition.
The council was due to come back with a response to its consultation, based on Infratil's proposals and a report from independent assessors, by the end of May.
But the airport has suffered recent setbacks - an announcement in December last year revealed airline Flybe was due to stop using the airport from this month.
It had run services to Belfast, Manchester and Edinburgh.
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