Airport plans return of passenger flights

Passengers could be flying from Manston again next summer
Passengers could be flying from Manston again next summer

SCHEDULED passenger flights could be back at Manston as early as next summer, the airport’s new owners hope.

And the arrival of a Jumbo cargo jet at the airport on Sunday morning could also herald the return of a crucial customer and the creation of new jobs at the site.

Infratil Airports Europe chief executive Steve Fitzgerald said he was hopeful that scheduled passenger airlines would be back at Kent International Airport by next summer.

He accepted that the collapse of low-cost airline EUjet had been a blow but that experience had not put off other airlines.

He has spoken to more than 30 at a recent conference and several had expressed strong interest. But he admitted he was some way away from an announcement.

He said: "Next summer is a reasonable target. The evidence is that there is demand but the business model by EUjet wasn’t able to make that profitable. We think other airlines can be."

An MK Airlines 747 freighter recently flew in from Nairobi with a cargo of fruit and vegetables.

MK Airlines, which operates a fleet of six Jumbos, quit Manston in August 2004 after refusing to pay landing fees charged by the former airport owner PlaneStation.

But Infratil is trying to woo MK Airlines back to Kent. Mr Fitzgerald hopes the one-off flight will bring MK Airlines back in numbers.

He said: "We are comfortable about the deal we have offered them. It’s a crucial deal that makes sense for us and we hope the whole package makes sense to them.

"If MK becomes a high-volume regular operator, we will probably need a handful of more people on the cargo side."

More jobs would also be needed when passenger services returned, Mr Fitzgerald said.

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