Inclusive Tour Charter Flights

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As you are no doubt aware, in October 2013 Peel Holdings decided to axe Inclusive Tour charter flights from Durham Tees Valley Airport. At the time, Peel bosses explained the decision to us in a private meeting with absolute clarity; it made perfect sense, leaving us beyond any doubt that it was the right thing to do. Until recently, I could never explain their decision with the same level of detail and clarity to others, consequently I only told half a story that was always shot down. I feel I've outlined the airports decision and the reasons for it below with the same level of detail and accuracy as we were told back in October 2013.

The Problem:

Following the 2008 recession, the charter carriers and to a lesser extent the low-costs as well, retreated back to the major hubs (i.e. airports with circa 3 million pax per year or greater) and have yet to re-emerge, with bases closed across the UK. To worsen the matter, a series of mergers and liquidations also took place, reducing the number of candidate airlines that could operate such services.

Our scenario:

To justify the level of services and utilities for larger aircraft such as fire cover, security, business rates on the terminal etc, we were told that at minimum you either need year-round services or a seasonal based aircraft. We had the year-round services thanks to Thomson operating to Tenerife in the winter and Palma in the summer, but then Thomson axed Tenerife (and had previously axed a winter Sharm el-Sheikh) due to, according to DTVA bosses:- having to discount fares to an unprofitable level in order to sell the seats. Knowing a single weekly rotation to Palma for just six months of the year was simply not practical, Peel attempted to attract further charter routes (bearing in mind that any contracts would quite rightly have to benefit both parties - not solely the airline as is common practice across the UK and Europe). When it became clear that all that would be forthcoming was an extra summer rotation to Ibiza, and four or five flights to Bourgas that may or may not have materialised into something more regular, and with little hope of the charter market improving, it made more sense to cut the losses and move away from Inclusive Tour charter flights, something which the latest airport accounts, available free online, shows to have worked, as our annual loss has halved as Peel promised it would following the axing of charters (if none of this were true, you would expect a loss of flights and therefore revenue to widen a financial loss - not half it).

One further comment on demand for such flights: the population of the north-east have the lowest propensity to fly in the country, with an average 1.2 flights per person per year compared with 2.7 in the south-east (figures may be slightly inaccurate, but close enough - you get the idea).

It may be too complex to get across to the average general public reader who doesn't quite understand how the aviation industry works, but at the end of the day Peel has an airport with a runway and they decide the best use for it to make money for their business, and they have chosen not to focus on passenger flights, but on BA/GA etc and other income sources for the land. The general public seems to think that an airport can only work if airliners are landing, and this is not the case at all. At the end of the day they need to make money, not provide a public service, as harsh as that may sound. To add a final note, as enthusiasts and spotters, we have one goal and one goal only - to see more movements on the runway and more aircraft on the ground at DTVA, which is worth bearing in mind when wondering why we have backed Peel Airports decision on charter flights.

Q: How come one-off charters such as Lourdes, Lapland, Italy, MoD charters etc are still practical?
A: One-off charters are practical because they don't require full-time staff to service them and can be planned into the operation months in advance. They also utilise help from volunteers such as FoDTVA to make them practical.

Further reading:

I found the below in some meeting minutes from June 2016, I believe the minutes to be in the public domain, but just to err on the side of caution we won't reveal what the meeting was and have blanked out the job title of one individual.

"A Member commented that for the majority of people living in the region holiday flights were everything; they were what an airport was for. Many did not understand or know about the other businesses based at the airport such as the fire training school and operations such as Cobham. The Vice-Chair referred to the recent press interview with Mr Hough, [Jun16] Chairman of Peel Airports and indicated that while there were some inaccuracies, there was still a positive message. There were, however, concerns that there had been no new flights now for a number of years when everywhere else was telling us that the holiday market was booming and the airline business buoyant. The [representative] commented that Peel were in the same position as others in the industry. Business was at times brutal and it was simply not economic to ‘buy-in’ services in the hope they would kick start something. Low cost operators did not want to pay anything approaching the real costs of dealing with aircraft and passengers, which meant an airport had to maximise the other revenue streams to make such services pay. The team were dedicated to bringing in new business, but Members concerns were understood and would be recorded. Members commented that holiday traffic from DTVA had been very successful in the past so there was no reluctance from local residents to use their local airport. There was also a concern that much of the new business when gained, went to DRHA. The ABTA representative commented that the holiday market had changed significantly with only two main operators and it was unlikely there would be a return to the former bucket and spade trade of the past."