Blackpool's London flight call

A CAPITAL link is vital for Blackpool's future fortunes.

That's the message from business leaders today after the new owners of Blackpool International Airport pledged to revive Fylde's air link to London.

The area has been without a service to the capital for 12 months since Ryanair pulled the plug on its popular Stansted route in May last year.

But bosses this week said a route to London was one of their top priorities as new owner Balfour Beatty promised to plough 90m of investment into the Squires Gate site by 2030.

Ryanair carried more than 500,000 passengers from the resort since the route's introduction in May 2003.

Despite a loyal customer base, passenger numbers dipped leading to the Irish carrier scrapping the service after just four years.

Balfour Beatty, which bought the airport for 14m from Mar Properties earlier this week, hope to increase passenger numbers to more than four million by 2035.

Clive Condie, chief executive of Churchill, Balfour Beatty's airport advisors, said: "Over the next few weeks we will be working closely with airlines to hopefully re-establish a London service.

"It is one of the main services we are looking at."

Blackpool's only link to London is via rail but even then passengers have to change at Preston to catch a Virgin train.

Businessman David Evans, managing director of Bispham-based Fleur Holidays, used the London route every few weeks.

He said: "I would be delighted to have the route back in Blackpool. It was such a shame when Ryanair pulled the plug.

"There are of course other ways of getting to London but nothing beats flying. I used it regularly and know a lot of other people would love to have it back."

Babs Murphy, chief executive of North and Western Lancashire Chamber of Commerce said: "We are confident that a service to London would be welcomed by our local business community who extensively use other means of transport to meet clients and carry out business meetings in the south.

"It would offer a more convenient service to businesses in addition to travellers who are heading to London and beyond no longer having to face the hassle and extra journey time of travelling down the M6 to the capital.

"The convenience of a new service should also strengthen business contacts between the north west and south and provide new opportunities for trade and investment.

"Lancashire has long been calling for an air route into London, this is something that is much-needed."

Jane Seddon, head of tourism at Blackpool Council, said: "It's fantastic news that the new owners want to restore a London link.

"The Blackpool tourist trade benefited greatly from the link because some people would stay over for a single night and catch the plane back down south on the early flight."