Airport hoping to tap into £20m pot

Blackpool Airport
Blackpool Airport
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Airlines could set up new routes from Blackpool after Government chiefs gave the green light to new funding.

As reported in The Gazette yesterday, Chancellor George Osborne announced in his Budget a project to encourage operators to fly to new destinations will be extended to smaller regional airports such as Blackpool.

The £20m regional air connectivity fund will now allow such airports to apply for funding to entice airlines to set up new routes to places within the European Union (EU).

When asked by The Gazette if Blackpool Airport would consider opening a new route as a result of the project, its corporate affairs manager, Sue Kendrick, said: “Potentially, if we can identify a route within the EU that would work - i.e. there is the demand from our catchment area for that route and we can incentivise (airlines) to operate it using funds if we were granted them.

“There are a lot of ifs and we await the finer detail to come from the Government in the summer.

“Of course the last thing you want to do is put a route on because you have got some funding but it is not a sustainable route, so it operates for a few months and then the demand is just not there.

“We need to make sure it is viable and works for both the airport, the airlines and their passengers.”

She added: “Details are still a little sketchy at the moment however the Government will be setting out further guidelines in the summer.

“We look forward to studying the detail once it has been announced and will work to maximising any assistance that we can get in improving our regional connectivity.”

The idea has been welcomed by the North and Western Lancashire Chamber of Commerce.

The organisation’s policy director, Hugh Evans, said: “It’s very welcome news for the airport.

“We’ve been strong supporters of the airport and believe it is an under utilised asset for the county.

“I do appreciate some of the smaller regional airports face enormous challenges and any support will be greatly welcomed.

“It scores so highly in terms of ease of access and ease with which people can pass through, we want to see a strong airport.”

Among other aspects of the Budget to affect business, the amount of government credit available to support overseas sales has also been doubled to £3bn.

Mr Evans added the overall reaction of the business community had been positive.

He said: “We’re saying it’s passed the business test.There are a lot of morsels on there to encourage business, exporting and small businesses to set up.

“The devil’s in the detail though and we’ll look at the fine print when more details emerge.”