We’re set to take off again, insists airport chief

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Teesside International Airport will still be flying high when all this is over. Flights will resume, holiday destinations remain on the timetable and a robust action plan is ready and waiting to take off, says an airport leader.

That’s the message from Phil Forster, commercial director at Teesside International Airport, who was the latest key name to take part in our special Talking Business feature, in association with Cornerstone Business Solutions.

Coronavirus has torn a hole through commercial life as we know it and lockdown happened at a time when the airport was gathering incredible momentum; routes to Belfast, Dublin and Southampton had just taken off and preparations were in place for a London City service as well as summer services to Majorca and Alicante.

Teesside International Airport, recently brought back into public ownership by Tees Valley mayor Ben Houchen, was the name on the aviation industry’s lips.

It still is, says Phil.

“It was starting to take off,” he said. “And I’ll say absolutely it will continue to do so.

“We are in a horrible situation at the moment but it is not just Teesside Airport and not just the Tees Valley region, it is the world. So, we are all in unprecedented times.

“The airport is in a good state, we will certainly be looking after it the right way. The big thing is that the momentum has stopped, like it has for everything. But there is a very bright future for this airport, I assure the people of the Tees Valley.”

Earlier in May, a new deal was announced with American firm Willis Asset Management. They’ll lease two hangars to carry out maintenance and storage on a commercial aircraft.

It is a huge deal, says Phil, and evidence of the work that is going on behind the scenes at the airport, which has remained operational throughout the lockdown serving military and medical flights to name just a few.

Airports are a fantastic asset for their region, says Phil. The people of the Tees Valley have embraced the return of service from Teesside and he’s now on a mission to bring more routes in and ensure that service is the best it can be – all with safety in mind given the current circumstances.

He says: “People have heard me say there are three things any airport needs.

“Access: we have the A19, A1, A66 and we are six miles away from east coast mainline. We have 5.2 million people within a 90-minute catchment area, which is phenomenal.

“The next thing is infrastructure: the terminal used to do just under one million passengers but there’s space to get up to two or three million. We have 800 acres of land. We’ve got a large runway, we can land almost any aircraft.

“The third thing is where my role comes in, route development.

“I always say a region sells a region. Airlines really are taking notes on what’s going on on Teesside. I guess that’s why I am still optimistic. It’s certainly a challenge for all airports but there really is a lot of enthusiasm and a lot of good things to look forward to for Teesside Airport.”