Anger over airport as staff face job loss

The last Jet2 flight from Blackpool Airport
The last Jet2 flight from Blackpool Airport

The finger of blame has been pointed at Jet2 and Balfour Beatty on the eve of the last flights from Blackpool International Airport.

The airline and the airport owners were criticised today over the debacle which has left Blackpool’s vital transport link facing closure.

The Unite union was meeting management at the airport today as attempts continue to find a buyer.

Unite regional officer Dave Kennedy said: “Its a very disappointing to be in this situation. I work with people at Liverpool and Manchester airports and those two have gone after new business in a much more aggressive way than Blackpool has done in recent years.

“We know the economy has been difficult recently but there has been business to be won out there and it is a shame that Blackpool Airport’s owners had not been more pro-active.

“The workforce at Blackpool has accepted many changes and has been very flexible to help keep their jobs and support the business.

“We have been saying for a long time that the management needed to work harder to attract new business.

“We are now in a situation where 118 people are to be without employment and that is a shame.

“We are working with the local colleges and universities to try to provide up-skilling for people, trying to make them more marketable.”

Meanwhile Coun John Jones, Blackpool Council’s cabinet member for highways and transport, said: “We appreciate that all the bad news of the last week has left many people across the Fylde Coast concerned about the future of Blackpool Airport.

“I think it also important to consider how such an apparently popular airport with busy flights has come to close.

“It is pretty clear that we have a situation where a successful airline is operating in an unsuccessful airport.

“Jet2 has been operating profitably, while the losses at the airport have been around £2m per annum.

“Balfour Beatty even took Jet2 to court to try and reduce the imbalance in this relationship, but this failed.

“Furthermore, with Jet2 planning to reduce its Blackpool flight numbers further next year, it would be difficult to see how anyone would have been prepared to take on that arrangement.

“The contract was, in our view, an extremely onerous one with very high fixed costs for the owners and one that could not be sustained.

“Jet2 has to operate in the interests of shareholders and we understand that, but its stance has certainly not been supportive of continuing operations in Blackpool.

“Therefore this parting was somewhat inevitable and we want to place on record our frustration that more has not been done by Jet2, in particular, to make the airport work for all parties.

“We also feel more could have been done by the airport operators to try to bring in new routes and airlines.”

He said councillors would be meeting in Westminster next week with MPs, ministers and other bodies to consider ways in which new funding could be accessed.

He added that the council will try to help those made redundant.