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.

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