Talks ongoing to salvage Blackpool’s Isle of Man flights

Passengers from a Citywing aircraft at Blackpool Airport
Passengers from a Citywing aircraft at Blackpool Airport
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Urgent talks are under way to try to finds a replacement airline to take on the Blackpool to Isle of Man route grounded after Citywing went into liquidation.

Passengers were left in the lurch on Friday when the operator of the only commercial flights from Squires Gate cancelled all flights saying it could no longer keep flying as it was sustaining heavy losses .

This was caused by its aircraft provider Van Air from the Czech Republic losing their UK licence following an incident in high winds on a Belfast flight on February 24.

It had tried to carry on with other providers including Polish carrier SprintAir, but the costs had been too high and owner David Buck conceded defeat.

Since then Eastern Airways of Humberside stepped in to run the Isle of Man to Newcastle flights – but said it did not have the air facilities to take on the Blackpool schedule too.

Now the island’s Minister for Infrastructure Ray Harmer has said in the House of Keys that talks are ongoing to find a replacement for the Blackpool and other routes.

He said: “In addition to the Belfast and Newcastle routes taken over by Eastern Airways, the Department of Infrastructure is working with airlines in respect of the other routes previously operated by Citywing.

“Discussions are continuing and a further update will be provided at the earliest opportunity.”

Ann Reynolds, Director of Ports, Isle of Man Airport, said: “There is definitely a will here to restore the historic flights between the Isle of Man and Blackpool.

“We really don’t want to lose this service.

“I am in talks with two or three operators at the moment who are quite interested in picking up the Blackpool flights.

“I hope that we can manager to do things and that we might get an answer in a few days.

“I need to talk to the operators at Blackpool Airport as well about the security side of things since Citywing, I believe, had a role in the provision of staff and equipment for that.”

Blackpool South MP Gordon Marsden called on airport owners Balfour Beatty and Blackpool and Fylde councils to intervene to restore the flights as quickly as possible.

He said: “This is a very sad situation. All parties must get together immediately to find someone to take on these flights and that includes Balfour Beatty, Blackpool and Fylde Councils both of whom have vested interests in not seeing this operation go dark.

“And if necessary the Lancashire Enterprise Partnership should be involved to see if there are any under-pinning supports that can be offered.

“If we don’t get these important commercial flights back in operation, we could have a knock on effect on the existing enterprise zone itself.

“We need assurances out of the CAA that any credible operator that comes forward to replace Citywing would be given approval swiftly.”

Leader of the Conservative group on Blackpool Council, Coun Tony Williams said: “It was important that we have passenger planes still using Blackpool Airport and if it could have been developed further to other airports in Ireland we could have had the start of an international gateway here.

“It is not unheard of for small operators to pick themselves up, dust themselves off and start again and I hope Citywing can do that.

“If not, then I hope that someone else can see the huge potential that Blackpool airport has.”

A statement from Citywing when it ceased operations said: “As a result of Van Air losing their route licenses on Friday, February 24, the company has found it difficult to source suitable viable aircraft to fulfil our contracts.

“The company has tried to offer a service whilesuffering considerable losses but these have proved unfortunately to be commercially unsustainable.

Citywing’s troubles come four years after it emerged from a buy-out of the Manx2 operation which in turn had run into trouble following a fatal accident at Cork in February 2011.

Manx2 was established as a ‘virtual’ airline.

This meant that the company marketing and selling the fares was separate from the carrier which, in turn, could sub-lease aircraft from another group.

Passengers have been advised to check with their credit or debit card company or travel insurance to see if they can claim a refund on tickets bought.

They may also be able to claim when a liquidator for Citywing is announced.

See also: Corporate business booms at Blackpool