Durham Tees Valley Repositions after Business Review

A UK regional airport has revealed plans to streamline its business and actually reduce its operations as it takes dramatic steps toward repositioning itself for the future.  Durham Tees Valley Airport in North East England has completed an extensive review of its business in order to give the airport “a strong foundation” to help safeguard a future of aviation activity focused on the business and general aviation sectors.

The airport, formerly known as Teesside International, is located close to Darlington but has seen air traffic decline significantly over the past seven years from a peak of 917,963 in 2006 to just 164,825 last year, the lowest level of traffic it had recorded since 1972.  It will now close all charter operations from summer 2014, reduce the operational size of the terminal building and focus on its regular  scheduled routes operated by KLM to Amsterdam and Eastern Airways to Aberdeen, maintaining at least some connectivity to global markets for the local region.

“We have taken these steps following a difficult period for the airport and a thorough review of the whole site and our current operations, in order to give the airport a strong foundation to help safeguard the future of aviation activity.”

Steve Gill
Managing Director, Durham Tees Valley Airport

This transition will see the Airport streamlining operations and moving away from all mainstream holiday charter programmes from summer 2014, with the exception of Flybe’s flights operated on behalf of CITS to Jersey.  The tour operators affected are Thomson Holidays, First Choice and Balkan Holidays who offered package deals to Palma and Ibiza in Spain and Bulgaria’s Black Sea resorts. 

As part of the transition, the terminal will undergo changes, making the operational area smaller and investment in the new layout will make it more suited to customers on scheduled flights.  New retail offerings and business services will be incorporated in the new layout.

“We have taken these steps following a difficult period for the airport and a thorough review of the whole site and our current operations, in order to give the airport a strong foundation to help safeguard the future of aviation activity,” said Steve Gill, managing director, Durham Tees Valley.

More details of how this will be achieved will be revealed in mid-November when a strategic Master Plan will be released and made available for public consultation.  This will likely show how Durham Tees Valley Airport plans to reposition the facility to focus on business and general aviation.

Speaking about the new Master Plan, Gill confirmed the document will outline plans for further developments of the airport.  “These will enable us to work towards expanding and diversifying our aviation and non-aviation activities across a broader base and grow back passenger services.  This is envisaged to provide additional UK and global connections for the region’s business community who have a significant need to access international markets,” he said.

“The recent announcement of our investment in the new hangar facility for the National Police Air Service and the purchase of a significant development site on the north eastern edge of the airport demonstrates our commitment to deliver a long term future for Durham Tees Valley Airport so that we can continue to make a positive contribution to the economy of the Tees Valley and beyond,” he added.

News about this business review first broke on the last day of this year’s World Routes forum in Las Vegas after a report in the regional UK press.  The HUB spoke to some senior UK airport representatives during the event about the breaking news story.  One airport chief executive responded in surprise at the news: “The fundamental reason we are here at World Routes is to secure improved connectivity for the region and bring the associated benefits to the economy of our catchment and the overall UK.  Learning about an airport that is turning away business is almost unheard of.”

Another UK airport chief executive said such a decision would be “brave” but highlighted that with so many small regional airports across the UK struggling to justify their markets, it could mark the beginning of a sensible consolidation of airport activities across the country.  “There are far too many airports in the UK fighting for a limited market.  This would certainly be a brave move from the airport’s management, but one I could easily see others following in the future.”

It is unclear how operators will respond to the decision.  The tour operators could easily transfer the capacity to other airports such as Newcastle International and Leeds Bradford International and although both KLM and Eastern Airways have initially supported the decision, they are likely to be concerned over the long-term sustainability of scheduled operations from the airport.

In the table below we highlight the scheduled passenger traffic at Durham Tees Valley since 2000; data that shows the dramatic decline in demand since the middle of the last decade.

SCHEDULED AIR TRANSPORT DEMAND AT DURHAM TEES VALLEY AIRPORT (annual passengers; UK CAA)

Year

Terminal & Transit Passengers

% Annual Change

2012

166,251

(-13.6) %

2011

192,410

(-14.9) %

2010

226,209

(-21.9) %

2009

289,464

(-55.9) %

2008

656,620

(-11.7) %

2007

743,727

(-17.9) %

2006

906,145

0.7 %

2005

900,035

14.2 %

2004

788,382

11.9 %

2003

704,269

4.9 %

2002

671,131

(-8.5) %

2001

733,617

(-2.4) %

2000

751,839

2.0 %


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