Monday, March 16, 2009

Brown praises paper's regional flights campaign

A newspaper's campaign to preserve daily flights between the North-East and London has been praised by Prime Minister Gordon Brown.

The Northern Echo launched its "Keep the Region Flying" campaign last month when bmi announced that its three flights a day between Durham Tees Valley Airport and Heathrow would stop at the end of March.

Speaking in the House of Commons, the Prime Minister described flights from Durham Tees Valley airport to Heathrow as "incredibly important", adding that he recognised that rescuing an air link to the capital was crucial to the future of the North-East economy.

Mr Brown spoke out after bmi's decision was raised in Prime Minister's Questions by Sedgefield MP Phil Wilson.

The airline has blamed the high landing charges demanded by Heathrow's owner, BAA, as its main reason for ending the service, on 29 March.

The Keep the Region Flying campaign is highlighting how those costs are making many airlines increasingly reluctant to run short-haul flights from the UK regions to the capital's international passenger hubs.

Asked about the loss of flights from Durham Tees Valley to Heathrow, Mr Brown told MPs: "Regional airports are incredibly important to the economy of all parts of this country.

"I recognise the importance of domestic air services to London airports for the economy of the North-East and for every other regional economy in the country."

Aviation minister Jim Fiztpatrick has now agreed to meet Mr Wilson to discuss the issue later this month.