Quote: ‘Some flights may be to Spain, Portugal, Canary Islands, Majorca, Balearic Islands’


By Staff reporter

Spain could be set for a boost with flights from Kent within the next five years, airport bosses hope.

It is envisaged one million passengers could travel through the Manston Airport terminal annually with meetings with big-name budget airlines, including Ryanair, easyJet and Wizz Air mooted.

Bosses claim the project to re-open the Thanet site could see it operating as a passenger airport once again by 2028.

The news comes amid a judicial review of the decision to allow the Thanet site to be transformed into a cargo hub was rejected by a High Court judge in January, paving the way for the airport’s revival.

Bosses from RiverOak Strategic Partners (RSP), revealed their ambitions to launch the state-of-the-art air freight hub in 2026.

Director, Tony Freudmann, said: “Work that was put on hold until the judicial review had been determined can now resume.”

A public consultation is expected to be held this summer before construction work begins in 2024, scheduled to last until 2025.

Freudmann said: “The launch date of the passenger airport will depend on the demand from low-cost carriers, like Ryanair, easyJet and Wizz Air.

“We’ve said we’re designing the airport, so if they want to come and we can agree to a certain commercial relationship, they could be there right at the beginning when the cargo starts or follow a year or two later.

“We will insist they have to base aircraft at Manston.”

Freudmann said the airport did not have passenger aircraft based there before its closure in 2014, which caused long spells where the terminal was empty and made it commercially unsuccessful.

“The plan is for a low-cost carrier or two to come. People will remember the Dutch airline KLM, which was not based at Manston, but flew in and out twice a day and connected to Amsterdam at Schiphol Airport. We’re pretty sure they’ll come back.

“If we have three low-cost aircraft based there and a double daily service to Amsterdam, that gives us the best of all worlds as we have low-price flights out of Manston and the connection to Schiphol which gives them access to the whole of the KLM global network,” he said.

Freudmann says discussions with low-budget airlines are set to resume after they were grounded, due to the legal challenge lodged in 2022.

“The airlines know their business better than we do. Based on what they do from other airports, we think most of (the flights from Manston) will be to southern Europe and some will be to the north of England, Scotland and Ireland.




“Some flights may be to eastern Europe. Spain, Portugal, Canary Islands, Majorca, Balearic Islands, Greece, Cyprus, those kinds of destinations, with some in the UK.

“In the past, they have looked at flights to Manchester, Glasgow and Dublin. They will decide that, as they’re the experts and they know what works for them,” he added.

The government originally granted a Development Consent Order (DCO) three years ago, a move that appeared to pave the way for the RSP-owned site to re-open.

In February 2021, it was officially quashed by the High Court, following a judicial review.

Despite this, the Department for Transport confirmed in August 2022 its DCO had once again been granted.

A 1,200-page appeal claiming the reopening of Manston Airport would cause irreparable harm to the people, environment and the economy of east Kent was made.

This second bid to halt plans to re-open it was rejected by a High Court judge in January.

A request has been lodged for the decision to be reviewed, which means the application can be renewed and be heard in open court.

Mr Freudmann said: “The applicant is exercising rights and the rules allow for a short hearing in front of a judge.

“The assumption is it will be a 30-minute hearing to persuade the court that the judgement was wrong.

“We’ll make sure we’re present at the hearing and the rules say the hearing should take place as quickly as possible.”

Mr Freudmann says the former airport only had one parking stand for cargo being loaded and unpacked. The new site will have 19.

Construction work will see a huge amount of berth movement, due to the gradient of the route from the runway to the parking stands being too high.

“We will also be building the cargo facilities, which are about three times the size of the largest Tesco,” he added.

On the Northern Grass, storage facilities, cold stores and offices for freight forwarders and customs will be built.

The old terminal building will have to be demolished as it is ‘past its life expectancy’, according to Freudmann.

“Assuming we get the likes of easyJet or Ryanair coming in, we will build a new passenger terminal where it is at the moment, with some car parking,” he said.

“Parking will be restricted as we’re being encouraged to bring as many people as possible to the airport, via public transport.

“We’re not talking Heathrow or Gatwick sizes. Heathrow has about 80 million passengers, Gatwick has about 45 million and we are forecasting about one million.

“It will be a nice, modern, passenger-friendly, but relatively small, terminal,” said Freudmann.

The project is expected to cost between £400 million to £500 million, funded from a combination of investment and long-term infrastructure loans.