The future of Coventry Airport has been thrown into doubt after its main carrier and former owners decided to stop flights from the troubled operation.
Holiday giant Thomsonfly, which sold the business to Irish developer Howard Holdings two years ago, is to stop flights from the airport following a review of its operations.
The company said the decision was based on an increased focus on charter flight operations rather than scheduled services since the merger of Thomson and First Choice last year although the announcement comes just two weeks after a High Court judge upheld the Government’s decision to reject moves to build a new terminal to take up to two million passengers a year from the airport.
Alan Durham, a director of the Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce, said the High Court decision and now Thomsonfly’s withdrawal could have a devastating affect on the airport.
He said: “The writing was on the wall when the airport lost its appeal to create a permanent passenger terminal. This is a blow to the local economy because it was an area we feel could have developed over the coming years. I know some will mention the environmental effects of air travel – but people will continue to fly, it just won’t be to the good of our local economy. I imagine the airport will now take stock to see where it will go from here as a business.”
Chris Browne, managing director of Thomsonfly, said the decision was related to its earlier merger and promised to work with passengers to ensure they were not left out of pocket by the decision.
He said: “As part of the planning process, we continuously review our operations in the UK and Ireland to ensure we run as efficient a business model as possible.
“With an increased focus on charter holiday flights, there is now a growing need for our aircraft on these routes and consequently our scheduled operations at Coventry Airport will regrettably terminate.
“We will work with all our customers to ensure minimal disruption to any bookings and hope the many loyal people that have travelled with us from Coventry will continue to benefit from our great value flights departing from other UK airports.
“We have had an excellent relationship with the airport to date and we would like to thank them for their support.”
Thomsonfly said it was holding discussions with affected staff and pledged to find replacement roles within the company where possible.
The last outbound flights operated by Thomsonfly from Coventry Airport will be on the November 2 and the last inbound flights to Coventry will be a week later, except for inbound flights from Jersey which will operate up to and including November 3.
Any customers with bookings for travel after these dates will be contacted over the next few days to arrange alternative travel plans or a refund.
Thomsonfly said it will continue to operate from 23 airports across the UK, including Birmingham, East Midlands, Doncaster, Luton and Stansted.
Brian Cox, chairman of Coventry Airport, said he “regrets but understands” the decision by Thomsonfly, adding: “Whilst accepting that this decision is based on a review of their present strategy, the door is open should they wish to return.
“At this present time, we cannot comment on what effect this announcement will have on the workforce at Coventry Airport but all changes to passenger travel arrangements will be dealt with by Thomsonfly.
“I would like to emphasise that we are still very positive, focused on our goals and convinced that Coventry Airport has a bright future, one that the people of Coventry and Warwickshire can share in and be proud of.”