Blackpool airport firms hoping for clear skies ahead

The first passengers arrive at the re-opened  Blackpool Airport in April 1 2014
The first passengers arrive at the re-opened Blackpool Airport in April 1 2014
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Businesses at Blackpool Airport are hoping that the only way is up for 2016.

Following a turbulent 12 months since its temporary closure on October 15 last year, aviation firms at Squires Gate say that the prospect of an enterprise zone on the site could help spark a resurgence airside in the future.

One of the businesses which was left stranded for months until operations could be restarted was Citywing.

This week it celebrated successfully delivering on its promise to give customers a punctual schedule.

During the last quarter, 92 per cent of all Citywing flights have departed on time and 98.6 per cent of flights have departed or arrived within 15 minutes of their expected times.

Citywing managing director David Buck said: “We are confident that our flight schedules will remain reliable throughout the remainder of 2015 and beyond, and we will continue to strive to keep our customers happy and deliver the best possible service for them.”

He said the closure last year was a difficult time but now they were looking forward to a more stable flight path.

Mr Buck said: “The closure was unfortunate for everyone concerned. I can understand why it happened but it was not a pleasant experience for anyone at the airport.

“Luckily the airport reopened and invited us back, albeit with a basic offering at first but we have made improvements and will continue to do so. I am really pleased with our building.

“We are the only commercial operator at the moment which has its advantages.

“The terminal is obviously different to what was there before, but what we have now is actually a more personal experience for our customers.

“It is almost like business class. At other airports we are in the terminals with everyone else and you sometimes can’t even get a seat, so our customers at Blackpool are quite lucky. But we aim to improve things and get everything all in one building.

“If the enterprise zone comes along and a new terminal is created then we will be very supportive of that. It would be an excellent proposition for the customers.”

He said they had employed more people from the Blackpool area to handle the check in and security and were hoping that 2016 would bring more new business.

He said: “We are hoping to generate 10 per cent more business through Blackpool next year.

“We will be promoting the Isle of Man and Northern Ireland as destinations. It is an easy way to get to Belfast, you only have a 20 minute stop over on the island and people coming to Blackpool can be out and about in minutes rather than having to wait or queue like they do at other airports.

“I would like to thank the staff at Blackpool Airport for getting us up and running and the council too for their support.”

Alan Elliott, from Air Ads, based at Hangar 8, which provides aerial adverts towed behind light aircraft for various companies, found that his business had to move to Rossall Field at Tarn Farm north east of Pilling, when the airport ended operations last autumn. When the airport reopened, initially pilots had to book their flights more than a day in advance before adequate air traffic control services were reinstated, which posed problems.

He said: “We had to leave for a while and were operating out of Rossall Field. It was hard for us and luckily the airport re-opened before we got bogged down in the farmer’s field with the winter weather. We could have been in trouble with all the rain.

“We came back as soon as we could and initially there were problems with the flight procedures when the airport first got back into business.

“It is still a little bit restrictive now compared to how it was before the closure, but by and large the airport is working well.

“It affected our business and paced additional costs upon us through operating out of the small farm site.

“However in some ways things are better, we do not have problems or delays getting air traffic control now because they don’t have the big jets to deal with.

“Having said that, I would be happy if the commercial flights came back and it was an international airport again. I think the town deserves that, but I just don’t think that will ever happen.

“The enterprise zone is a wait and see matter. Nobody here is sure how that will turn out. Many people are not sure if the airport owners are rally committed to aviation. There is a lack of communication from the owners at the moment and that is annoying.

“But Bond helicopters remaining at the airport will be crucial. There is a lot of general aviation at Blackpool at the moment but we are not sure if it will be enough on its own to make the airport profitable.”

Russell Whyman, from Air Navigation and Trading, said business had returned to normal and that the loss of the large commercial airline flights which had caused the airport to run at a loss had no effect on the general aviation business.

He said: “It was a tough few months for everyone when we were not really sure what was going to happen. It was our own resilience that got us through.

“The number of movements at the airfield has not really changed apart from the lack of the big 737s obviously.

“The main difference that we have noticed is that we are coming out of a recession, that has had the main effect on our business.”

One man who has benefitted from the changes is John Coombes, from Fylde Executive cars, which moved to the airport in July.

He said the move could only have happened following the end of the Jet2 commercial airline flights and the reorganisation of the airport.

They were the first new business to move into the airport since its closure and the first non-aviation company, although John is part of the team behind the Museum of Aviation and Aircraft Manufacturing which has moved into Hangar 42 on the site.

He said: “We have spent the past few months getting on our feet and sorting out our technology and we are ready for expansion.

“It has been a great opportunity for us and although we are based in the Fylde and Blackpool we have ambitions to expand on a regional basis and being at the airport has raised our profile.

“Should the Enterprise Zone go ahead then it will bring other benefits such as enhanced broadband to help businesses like ourselves. We are launching a new service and are recruiting right now.

“We have a new taxi app and other related business coming up. Some of the positions are office based and we are also recruiting chauffeurs and private hire drivers.

“There has been a change of management at the airport and they have been very supportive to us and keen to work along side us.”