Coventry Airport will be looking to turn itself into a cargo and corporate travel hub after its main passenger carrier abandoned the airport.
Holiday giant Thomsonfly said it would be dropping Coventry as a base in just a few weeks, leaving the Midlands airport with barely any passenger flights at all.
But airport chief executive Chris Orphanou said more commercial flights would take up the slack – and promised passenger flights would return to Coventry.
Speaking the day after Thomsonfly announced Coventry would be losing out because of an internal reorganisation, Mr Orphanou said: “OK this is a big event for us.
“But from a guy who’s run airports, I wouldn’t say this is a common problem, but it’s a regular event in aviation.
“We are going to have to retrench and look at our operations. We have continued to operate cargo, and now we are going to amplify that. By virtue of Coventry’s location we also provide ideal opportunities for corporate aviation facilities.
“Thomsonfly was a big carrier, the biggest carrier we had here. Effectively the whole passenger business will go.
“But I absolutely believe Coventry will carry on as a passenger airport. We have a future, we are just going to try to develop.”
Shortly after the Thomsonfly announcement Alan Durham, a director of the Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce said the writing could be on the wall for the airport, describing the decision as a “blow to the local economy”.
But Mr Orphanou said that while the loss of Thomsonfly was a big blow to the airport, it was also a big opportunity for carriers to find a new base, and he was confident that someone would take over the role.
“If you look at the positive side, its now effectively a clean sheet from which other people can make that a commercial and lucrative business case,” he said.
“I have personally spoken to people about it in the past. I can tell you as soon as I went to meet these people they feared the competition, now it’s a clean sheet and they can come here.
“We have lost Thomsonfly and someone else will be coming in, the challenge is when.”
Thomsonfly’s last flights out of Coventry will be on November 2, with the last inbound flights the week after that. Any customers with tickets booked for after that date are advised to contact the travel operator.
The holiday company said it had made the decision to leave Coventry, where it has operated for three years, because of an increased focus on charter flights instead of scheduled services since the current company was formed by a merger between Thomson and First Choice last year.
Mr Durham had claimed that Thomsonfly were put off by the airport’s failure to secure permission to build improved passenger handling facilities.
The improvement plans, which would have doubled the airport’s passenger capacity to about 2 million, were turned down on appeal by the High Court two weeks ago.
But Mr Orphanou denied this, saying: “It was merely coincidental. There was more than enough capacity. If they were close to a million and were restrained then I would say it was a contributing factor.”
He said the expansion and improvement of the facilities would be important to try to bring in any potential new carriers, although it remained to be seen whether it was still feasible.
“It’s cost us £6.5 million just to get it to this stage,” he said.
“Collectively the benefits aren’t just for the owners, it’s for the passengers, it’s for the business community and it’s for the region as a whole.”