Red Arrows display set to wow at Durham Tees Valley airport

There was a huge amount of disappointment last year when Skylive was postponed in the wake of the tragic events at Shoreham Airshow. However, fear not; the airshow taking place at Durham Tees Valley airport has been rearranged for 28th May this year. Not only is the airshow returning, but it’s coming back bigger and better than ever. Headlining the event will be none other than the Red Arrows, who will also be available on the ground to greet the public.


Joining the Red Arrows display will be three of the most prestigious RAF shows, including the Falcons parachute display team. The event organisers have been working very hard to make this event one to remember and it is very special to the airport in general. They told Gazette live: “Given the airport’s history as an important air base during World War Two, it is particularly significant that the Lancaster, Spitfire and Hurricane from the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight will be taking part.”


With thousands of spectators already set to attend the event and further attractions still to be announced, it looks as if this event is not going to be one to miss! Tickets for 5-15 year olds start at just £5.50 for the entire day, so make sure you have a look at the Skylive website for all the details.

Spain is top in the Northeast

Spain, including the Balearic and Canary islands, is the most popular flight destination for travellers in the northeast of England, according to local newspaper, the Sunday Sun. The news means that the growing popularity of resorts in Turkey and Eastern Europe is not affecting the sale of tickets on more traditional routes, such as Alicante, Tenerife, or Palma de Mallorca.

However, the statistics, which were obtained from the Civil Aviation Authority, indicate that Amsterdam, not Spain, was the most travelled-to destination in 2010. The Sunday Sun, while acknowledging Amsterdam’s popularity, did not reserve many column inches for the Dutch city. “We’ve discounted Amsterdam”, explained Coreena Ford, journalist at the Sunday Sun, “because around 75% (of people) who journey to Schiphol Airport don’t stay long”.

Schiphol, with its six runways, offers routes to many global destinations, including Hong Kong, Adelaide in Australia, Washington in the USA, and even the village of Alluitsup Paa in Greenland. The airport is particularly important for people in the northeast, as resident airline, KLM, recently expanded its schedules to include extra flights between Durham and Amsterdam Schiphol.

Alicante in southeastern Spain received 35,346 holidaymakers from Durham Tees Valley during 2010, making it the second most popular destination after Amsterdam. Tenerife, one of the Canary Islands, was 445% more popular in 2010 than during the previous year, while the number of people choosing Palma for their holiday fell by 32% over the figures for 2009.

Robin Tudor, PR chief at Peel Airports, said that Mediterranean resorts are “always popular”. Around 750,000 people travelled to Spain from Newcastle and Durham airports in 2010.

KLM adds homeland flights

Throughout summer 2011, KLM, one of the largest carriers in the world, will operate three flights a day from Durham Tees Valley Airport to Amsterdam Schiphol Airport in Holland. The route, which has been described as a “major benefit” to northeast business, is being sold on the strength of Schiphol’s links to long-haul destinations, such as New York in the US, Frankfurt in Germany, and Hong Kong in China.

Durham, now one of the smallest hubs in the country, following a prolonged passenger exodus, has engineered a remarkable recovery, from an airport that could lose 63,000 customers in just 12 months, to one that can compete with its rival, Newcastle Airport. The Darlington hub increased customer numbers by almost 50% in January, and 24% in February, when compared to the same months in 2010, effectively ending a five-year run of bad luck. Whether the rise is sustainable has yet to be seen, but KLM’s recent expansion will be seen as a much-needed vote of confidence in the airport’s future.

Mike Morton, chief at Durham Airport, explained the attraction of KLM’s route from the northeast to Amsterdam Schiphol, “We know that the business community sees Amsterdam as the first choice for access to the worldwide flights network”. Durham’s website claims that a link to Schiphol is “vital” for local companies, such as Casper Shipping, who have interests in Asian and North American markets.

KLM’s new summer schedule includes a flight to Schiphol at 06.15, allowing tourists and executives to enjoy day trips to the Dutch capital. Later connections depart at 09.20, and then four hours later, at 13.45. KLM’s blue and white planes return to the northeast at 08.40, 13.05 and 22.05,

Henri Hourcade, UK chief at Air France-KLM, said that the airline “very much values” passengers from Durham.

Passenger numbers in freefall

Whilst several UK airports defied the odds (and volcanic activity) to post growth in 2010, a far greater number succumbed to snowfall and the recession, and ended the year in a disappointing slump. However, few airports can claim to have suffered as much as Durham Tees Valley. The Darlington hub has lost almost 700,000 passengers since 2006, including 63,000 in 2010 alone.

In terms of passenger numbers, Durham Tees Valley is now languishing in the doldrums, surrounded by ‘island and highland’ airports, such as St. Mary’s on the Isle of Scilly, Scatsta in the Shetlands, and Kirkwall on the Orkney Islands. The hub’s closest rival on the UK mainland is Blackpool Airport, which endured a 15% plunge in passenger numbers in 2010, compared to 22% at Durham.

Durham is dangerously close to undoing everything that bosses have worked for over the past 35 years. The loss of a further 13,000 customers in 2011 would return passenger numbers to levels unseen since 1975, when the airport was known by its original moniker, Teesside International Airport. Back then, traffic figures were buoyed by a BMI route to Heathrow. The route was pulled in 2009, however, forty years after it originally began.

The recent collapse of Flyglobespan and tour operator, Goldtrail, caused significant problems for Durham, but the departure of bmibaby in 2006, Wizz Air in 2008, and Ryanair in 2011, sent the airport’s debts into a spiral. The poorly received Passenger Facility Fee, essentially, a £6 levy for ‘permission’ to pass through airport security, was the inevitable consequence of Durham’s terminal lack of popularity, and a desperate bid to raise an extra £500,000 for new developments.

Despite the grim outlook, officials at Durham Airport remain cautiously optimistic about the hub’s future. Expansions from Thomson Airways and Atlantic Holidays will add extra routes to Tenerife in the Canary Islands, Sharm el Sheikh in Egypt, and the Portuguese archipelago, Madeira. The uptake of tickets on routes hosted by Turkish holiday firm, Holidays 4U, are also said to have "improved" in recent months.

Local Tory MP, James Wharton, noted that "good transport links," including Durham Airport, are "vital," if the northeast economy is to recover from the recession.

Desperate Durham adds £6 levy

From November 15 2010, visitors passing through security at Durham Tees Valley Airport will be charged for the privilege.

Durham, the eighth smallest airport in the UK by total passenger numbers, is operated by Peel Airports Ltd., which is in turn owned by two partners, The Peel Group and Vancouver Airport Services (VAS).

The Passenger Facility Fee (PFF) is a moneymaking ploy designed to shore up Durham’s finances over the difficult winter season.

Local newspaper GazetteLive claims that the north-eastern airport has lost more than 30% of its annual passengers, and is now “battling for survival” against its rival, Newcastle International.

The increasing number of routes available from Manchester and Edinburgh must also be having an effect on Durham’s fortunes, as many holidaymakers are prepared to travel long distances to find a cheap flight.

Adults will be charged £6 when the PFF comes into effect, whilst children from 3-15 years old will have to part with £3.

Given Durham’s flagging popularity, the scheme’s success hinges entirely on the loyalty of regular customers, as the plan can only make the airport look unattractive to people who traditionally fly from Newcastle.

However, local councillors believe that Durham’s ‘loyal’ travellers will flee like rats from a sinking ship when the PFF is introduced.

Responding to the scheme’s critics, the CEO of Peel Airports, Craig Richmond, said “No one likes being asked to pay money, but I hope the whole community will recognise that it is something we have to do if the airport is able to move forward.”

Peel is attempting to set up new contracts with its partner VAS in a bid to lure new business to Durham Tees Valley. GazetteLive cites the example of new routes to airports in Cyprus, which could be facilitated by VAS’s existing presence on the island.

Whilst the PFF might seem like a novel way of extracting money from travellers’ wallets, the scheme is not a new one, having been championed by Norwich, Blackpool and Newquay airports in recent years.

Durham could make a tidy £500,000 a year from the PFF if the airport can convince local residents to support their local airport rather than going wherever the tickets are cheapest.

Durham wins ‘landmark case’

Durham Tees Valley Airport stands to recover millions of pounds in lost revenue, after defeating budget airline, BMIbaby, in a landmark legal battle. The carrier pulled its planes out of Durham in 2006, costing the airport ‘huge sums’ in retail profits and landing fees, and breaching a service contract with current owner, Peel Airports.

The ruling, which was made at the Appeals Court, entitles Durham to sue BMIbaby for upwards of £11,585,306 – a strange number, but one that reflects the amount of money the airport lost because of BMIbaby’s premature departure. The carrier will also be liable for an additional £1m in legal fees.

Airport bosses lamented the need to sue their former partner, claiming that BMI’s withdrawal was both avoidable and unnecessary, but Hugh Lang, director at Peel Airports, was pleased with the result, ‘Today’s judgment totally vindicates the action we have been pursuing for the last three and a half years. We are very pleased that significant damages are now due to the airport to compensate us for our loss.’ The ruling represents a significant change of direction for the Appeals Court, which had criticised Durham’s ‘vague and uncertain’ contract terms in the past, and dropped all charges against BMIbaby.

The amount of money payable to Durham will now be decided by the High Court in the coming months. BMI intends to challenge the decision.

Durham’s victory should bring some solace to other airports that have been dumped by budget airlines, such as Robin Hood and East Midlands. The two airports were abandoned by Ryanair and EasyJet respectively, late last year.

Related Links

Robin Hood Stung by Budget Airline

EasyJet Bored of East Midlands

Unemployment at Durham

Durham Tees Valley Airport is to make 32 staff members redundant in a bid to become “better and smarter".

The news, which forms part of a larger press release by Peel Airports Group, comes just days after East Midlands Airport announced heavy cuts to its security team, amounting to 30 different positions.

East Midlands has experienced a slump in passenger numbers over the past year, coupled with a reduction in the number of airlines flying from the airport. A good chunk of its workforce was simply unused and expendable.

Durham has a similar story to tell, but Peel wants to be able to spend more money on airport regeneration, rather than hiding it in bank vaults. The cash gleaned from the redundancies has already been earmarked for an ambitious construction project.

The existing terminal will be divided into two separate areas – one for regular travellers, and a second space reserved for premium customers. Peel cited a new Eastern Airways route to Southampton as ‘evidence’ that the proposals were already attracting new business.

Airport boss, Kerry Quinn, was optimistic, saying that the feedback received on the plans from partners and customers "has been resoundingly positive”. The airport will offer premium options all year round, but other services will be scaled according to market conditions.

Durham has also reduced its opening hours to 18 hours a day. The airport will now open at 4am and close at 10pm, but private aeroplanes will be accommodated if they wish to use the airstrip during the night.

BMI breaks contractual agreement at Durham Tees Valley Airport

Durham Tees Valley Airport have launched a lawsuit against the UK carrier BMI Baby, the budget arm of British Midland (BMI), after alleging that the airline has broken a contractual agreement with the airport.

According to the airport, BMI agreed in writing that, from 2003, they would make 30 flights a week from Durham Tees Valley to ten short-haul destinations. The airport claims that the airline agreed to transport passengers from the North-East airport using two Boeing 737 aircraft for ten consecutive years, paying fees based on passenger numbers. It is alleged, however, that shortly after the agreement was made, BMI began flying just one Boeing 737 from the airport each week, failing to ensure that the aircraft was full, before suspending the flights altogether late in 2006 (seven years before the contract was due to expire).

Durham Tees Valley, part of the Peel Airport Group, claims that by ending the routes before the contract was up BMI has caused the airport to lose £12,523,686 and it is now attempting to get compensation from the airline. BMI, the second largest carrier at Heathrow, has responded to the allegations, maintaining that it will not look to reach a compromise, but will “vigorously defend its position in court”.

The news follows a recent announcement that the airline’s majority stakeholder, Sir Michael Bishop, is looking to sell his 50% share in British Midland before the end of the year. Lufthansa, who already holds 29% of the shares, has expressed an interest in buying the airline.

Durham Tees Valley Name Change

Last year, Teesside airport had its name changed to Durham Tees Valley airport as part of a three-year extensive redevelopment plan. The name change, which was accompanied by a redesign of the airport logo, marks a part of significant changes which are taking place at the airport.

Teesside airport’s name was changed to Durham Tees Valley airport to represent these significant changes as they take place; it also serves to assist potential visitors to the area with locating the airport in terms of its location in the UK.

New route for Durham Tees Valley

BMIBaby operated the first flight between Durham Tees Valley and Newquay in June this year.The flight was the first of many, with four flights a week planned to this popular holiday destination in Cornwall.