Jobs could go at Kent International Airport after Flybe pulls out

Flybe plane
Flybe plane

by business editor Trevor Sturgess

Jobs are likely to go following Flybe's decision to quit Manston after less than two years.

The airline yesterday handed airport workers an unwelcome Christmas present by confirming it would axe its Edinburgh service from March 25.

It severs the final link following Flybe's grounding of earlier services to Manchester and Belfast. The tough economic climate and weakening passenger demand have been blamed for the shock decision.

Airport chief executive Charles Buchanan warned there may be some job losses although it was too early to say how many. He said Flybe's decision was "disappointing but not disastrous" and is confident airlines will return when the economy picks up.

However, Flybe's withdrawal is a blow to Manston's reputation for scheduled passenger services.

The Edinburgh flights were regarded as Manston's jewel in the crown, popular with leisure passengers, business people and students, although some found it inconvenient they could not fly there and back in a day.

Speaking to Kent Online, Mr Buchanan said that when times are tough, peripheral routes are vulnerable.

Manston is not yet firmly established and still at the development stage of an airline's network, he said.

"The case is here when the times are right," he explained. "It's just that the times aren't right at the moment.

"It's not the Christmas present we or our staff wanted."

Mr Buchanan said relaxation of night-time operations was essential if Manston hoped to attract an airport-based airline.

High-speed rail and a Manston Parkway station, with journey times to London of around an hour, would also help attract more passengers.

Simon Lilley, Flybe's marketing director, said: "Our ongoing commitment to Manston has been reliant on the success of the Edinburgh service that we launched in May 2010.

"Despite extensive marketing of this route both in Scotland and throughout the south east, the challenging economic environment has meant passenger numbers remain at unsustainable levels, and are insufficient to financially justify its continued operation."

All passengers who have booked flights online for next summer will be contacted by Flybe and offered a full refund or accommodated on alternative flights.

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