Teesside’s air link with London has been focused after just a year.
Airport chiefs and officials at airliner Loganair announced the cancellation on Monday afternoon – with rising landing fees at Britain’s largest airport blamed. Loganair’s Teesside route to Southampton – which used the same aircraft – has also been cut as part of the move.
The news comes as a big blow to the publicly-owned airstrip – with Teesside flights to Heathrow used for onward connections worldwide. Rising costs were unveiled at Heathrow at the start of this year after the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) granted permission for a 37% increase in landing fees.
The Heathrow route began in 2021 after a stuttering start when the first flight was canceled. In March, Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen confirmed the airport was seeking assurances from airlines in the wake of the Heathrow fee hike after resuming its partnership with Loganair in 2020.
A joint statement by Loganair and Teesside Airport pointed to “a recent significant increase in Heathrow’s take-off and landing fees” which had led to a significant increase in costs. It also referenced global oil prices affecting the cost of aviation fuel as a reason for the Heathrow-Teesside route being “unviable” – resulting in it ending in two weeks’ time.
Teesside Airport manager Phil Forster thanked loyal passengers and apologized for the inconvenience the axis route would cause. He said: “Rising costs across the industry have meant that the route is no longer viable and not something we could support without passing that on to our passengers.
“While slowly recovering, business flights were still nowhere near pre-pandemic levels, immediately putting the route at a disadvantage. The aviation industry is also facing a challenging and complex time from a range of other external factors which we, as an airport, are working hard to mitigate.
“Loganair remains a committed partner to our airport, and we are working alongside other operators to increase our routes and destinations to give local people an airport they can be proud of. We are also seeing hugely strong forward bookings on our summer holiday routes with Ryanair and TUI, proving people want to get away and brighter days are ahead.”
Kay Ryan, from Loganair, was “extremely disappointed” it would no longer provide a service due to rising costs. She added: “Customers affected by the cancellation will receive either an alternative routing if applicable, or a refund should they prefer that option.
“Those customers who booked their Heathrow travel via one of our code-share partners will receive any applicable alternatives direct from the airline they booked with, and not Loganair. We thank Teesside Airport for their support over the last 12 months and look forward to continuing our excellent working relationship.”
Teesside has worked to try and build its passenger numbers back after the aviation sector was hit by the pandemic. Figures from 2020/21 unveiled a £13.8m loss and a bailout from the Tees Valley Combined Authority (TVCA).
The loss of the route has drawn anger from Mr Houchen – who has put the blame on Heathrow’s shoulders. The Tory mayor accused Heathrow chiefs of a “short-sighted and ludicrous move” in increasing its fees – which he believed would hit his government’s “Levelling Up” plans.
Mr Houchen said: “This is daylight robbery, and it is disgraceful that Heathrow is attempting to line its own pockets at the expense of not just those passengers who regularly used the service but at the expense of everyone living in the region.
“This decision shows its disregard for regional connectivity and how Heathrow has turned its back on the north by pricing out regional airport connectivity.
“I will be writing to the Government to investigate the increased fees from Heathrow, which go directly against the Government’s ‘Levelling Up’ agenda. Heathrow cannot be allowed to get away with such a blatant disregard for regional connectivity if it wants to call itself the UK’s airport.”
He added: “This short-sighted and ludicrous move to make a fast buck at the expense of northern passengers has had a huge impact, which is clear to see as airlines are piling on the pressure on Heathrow to reverse its decision.
“Unfortunately, even if this is successful, it is too little, too late for this service but I’m delighted that Loganair remains a committed partner to Teesside Airport. Heathrow should not be allowed to get away with this.”
Teesside Airport officials say the long-standing Amsterdam link to Schiphol will still allow worldwide connections. Mr Houchen has also written to Transport Secretary Grant Shapps to sound his “frustration and anger” over the fees.
His letter called for the increased fees to be “properly investigated” given the “serious detrimental impact they have on connectivity via regional airports like Teesside”.
Heathrow Airport has been contacted for comment on the mayor’s criticisms.