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EasyJet and Ryanair in talks to resume passenger flights from Manston Airport

Passenger flights could return to Manston Airport quicker than expected - with Ryanair and EasyJet among airlines holding talks to get services up and running.

The Department of Transport finally granted a Development Consent Order on Thursday - paving the way for it to operate again for the first time since it shut in 2014.

Manston airport has been shut for years
Manston airport has been shut for years

It will primarily handle cargo flights but Tony Freudmann, director of RiverOak Strategic Partners (RSP) which owns the airfield, says talks are already under way with a number of airlines.

It is understood KLM - which operated the last passenger flights at the airport to Amsterdam’s international hub airport at Schiphol - is keen to return. Talks have also taken place with the likes of Ryanair and EasyJet.

Mr Freudmann explained: “Looking at the way the passenger market is going, we are confident we can persuade one or more low-cost carriers to base their planes here.

“It does not work for us if they fly in just once a day because that is not economic. If they base three or four planes at Manston, we will have rotations three or four times a day, as they have at Southend.

“That will cover our costs and bring passenger footfall through the terminal all day and every day. We will reinstate the twice daily KLM service to Amsterdam Schiphol that we had before and that will give business people in particular access to almost anywhere in the world.”

Tony Freudmann
Tony Freudmann

However, no such flights would be operational until the freight operation was already up and running.

He added: “You can’t have unconditional discussions when you haven’t got a DCO. What we do know is that [airlines] are very interested; they run feeder services from other regional airports.

“If you take operators like Ryanair and EasyJet, their problem is that at Gatwick, Luton and Stansted, there are no more slots between 6am and 7am. If you can’t take off before 7am, it compromises the efficiency of the day; so they base their planes at Southend; the same will be at Manston.

Manston airport
Manston airport

“It works very well for them because they capture the global market, particularly for business people who do not like Heathrow. We are confident it will work again.

“We have been in limbo. Now that is over we can resume these conversations, as well as those we have been having with cargo operators.”

RSP, which says it plans to invest up to £500million into the airport, says surveys, planning and design work will now

begin, with construction later next year. The first cargo services are expected to take-off in early 2025.

Asked if the Manston plan could ease some of the problems on Kent’s road network, particularly during periods of delay and destruction, he said: “We think so but you have to remember that freight cargo is smaller in volume and size than shipping freight.”

He said he was confident that after a series of setbacks, the plans for Manston had now cleared the necessary hurdles.

Responding to concerns there would be night flights, he said a curfew would be in place from 11pm to 6am.

“The only exception to that would be late arriving passenger flights coming in from Southern Europe," he said. "Otherwise there will be no night flights - period.”

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