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NEWS Last modified on October 15, 2014

Call for help for smaller airports as Blackpool shuts

As Blackpool Airport handles its last flight and closes today, the Airport Operators Association (AOA) has called on the government and the Civic Aviation Authority (CAA) to do more to help smaller gateways.

Last week, the UK regional airport announced it was to shut as no agreement had been reached to find a buyer and secure the future of its low-cost operations.

Darren Caplan, chief executive of the AOA, explains: “Blackpool now joins Manston and Plymouth in the list of commercial airports which have had to close, to the detriment of their local communities and those who work and rely on the airports.

“Smaller airports are crucial for local businesses, inbound and outbound tourism, and in enabling people to visit friends and family across the UK and around the world. In some parts of the country, they are an essential lifeline.

“Smaller airports in particular have to cope with increasing fixed costs, required to enable them to fulfil their regulatory obligations.”

Caplan also says smaller gateways have to cope with an air passenger duty (APD) level, which is the highest in the world and goes up every year, and says families are having to pay between a quarter and half their fare in APD, which not only affects passenger numbers, but also route development and the frequency airlines choose to operate.

Caplan adds: “The AOA is asking for both the CAA and the government to take note. We believe in a competitive airport sector, but it is hard to compete with hands tied behind your back.

“We call on the CAA as the aviation regulator to help keep costs down in future; and we call on the Treasury to review the impact APD is having on the UK’s connectivity and economy, with a view to reducing it as soon as possible.”

Blackpool Airport owner Balfour Beatty, who acquired it in 2008, announced the sale in August after deciding to end its involvement in running regional gateways.

The gateway had employed around 100 staff and handled 262,000 passengers in 2013, had been making a loss for years.

A press statement from the airport last week, says it is working with local authorities, while regeneration plans are being developed which will be “designed to create future employment and sustainable economic development opportunities for Blackpool and the Fylde Coast."

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