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.