Can Durham Tees Valley Airport have a future?

By | Category: Travel news

Image © DTVA

In 2006 just over 917,000 used the airport. In 2017, it was only 130,911. The airport website home page says that it is a small world. It seems to be getting even smaller since you can only catch flights to Aberdeen and Amsterdam. At least until the summer.

Using the latest figures from the CAA it appears that there should be a slight improvement this year since in the first eleven months of the year, there were 140,556 passengers. But this still means than, on each day of those eleven months, the average number of passengers was just 420.8, just about enough to fill three Boeing 737’s and not even enough to fill one jumbo or Airbus 380.

Compare that number to nearby airports. Humberside had 566.9; Leeds-Bradford had 12,097 and Newcastle had 16,005 passengers per average day.

Given the disparity and you have to wonder whether Durham-Tees Valley can or even should survive as an airport.

Yet back in 2006 when, on average, 2,512 flew each day few people would have questioned the future of the airport. It has good road connections,  a bus service and a railway station just a mile away which is close compared to that offered by some aiports. The only problem is that the train service is lousy with just one train stopping there; that is on a Sunday and the station is listed as the one with the fewest passengers in the country.

Those passengers that flew in 2006 are largely, still flying: it is just that Durham-Tess Valley has lost them to other airports. But could they be attracted back to use the airport?

The simple answer is that they will only return if there are flights to where they want to go. And airlines won’t schedule flights until they know there are enough passengers to make flights economic.

Can this chicken and egg situation be resolved?

Research from Consumerdata, a specialist travel consultancy (and, it must be said, our parent) suggests that those people living in the Teeside area are 10% more likely to fly than some other areas in the north east. That would indicate that if the routes could be re-introduced people would fly from the airport again. At present Manchester, Newcastle, Leeds-Bradford and Doncaster Sheffield airports in particular are sucking the potential users of the airport out of the local economy and into economic growth elsewhere.

Agreeing the deal to buy the airport – subject to agreement from the local authorities. Image © TVCA

Examining the flight habits of some 573,000 people living in the north east and where they fly to and from, Consumerdata has postulated that, all things being equal, just from Teeside alone, the airport should be able to attract 196,000 people from the TS postal area. Why? Because that is the number of people who have made overseas holidays in the past when the airport was at its most bouyant and probably continue to do so. Taking the whole of the North East and, given that Durham-Tees Valley was able to offer a like-for-like service as provided by its rivals, then some 1.63 million passengers should be using the airport each year.

The new mayor of Teeside, Ben Houchen, has been elected on a  manifesto to buy and to bring the airport back into public ownership. He has negotiated a price and now requires the agreement of the local authorities.

In just over a week’s time the local authorities will be meeting an organisation – said to be Stobart who run Southend and Carlisle Lake District airports – about the management of the airport. As Stobart has its own airline that sounds as though some services might be introduced at Durham Tees Valley almost from day one if it is appointed. And if it is Stobart, then their relationship with easyJet and Loganair might suggest the airport could have a bright future after all if Consumerdata’s figures are indicative.

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