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I like to think that one of humanity’s great redeeming features is the ability to learn from mistakes. To my dismay, it seems that KCC does not learn from its mistakes, which is particularly unfortunate given that these mistakes involve large sums of our money. They’ve done it before, and they’re trying to do it again.

KCC recently applied for £10m from the government’s Regional Growth Fund to kick-start the Manston Parkway project, and to subsidise an unnamed airline to operate out of Manston. The bookies’ current favourite is Wizz Air, an East European-based budget airline, currently flying out of Prestwick, Infratil’s other European airport.

Some time ago, KCC “invested” (in the non-returnable sense) £150,000 in EUJet, and then threw it another wedge of readies as it was going under.

Before that, KCC lost a six figure sum on a bonkers venture to fly between Manston and Norfolk, Virginia, USA. (No, I hadn’t heard of it either. It has the world’s largest naval base, stuffed full of sailors who don’t want to fly to Kent – ’nuff said.)

Here’s the Virginia chronology – click the dates for the full stories…

FEB 20, 2006    Passenger flights to America from Manston planned
The county could become a gateway to the United States by next spring, Kent on Sunday can reveal. Negotiations are at advanced stages to operate passenger flights between Kent International Airport at Manston and Norfolk, Virginia, on the east coast of the US.

JUL 13, 2006    Direct flights to USA from Manston next year
Tour operator Cosmos and its sister airline, Monarch, will start direct transatlantic flights between Manston in Thanet and Virginia next year. The weekly charter flights will be the first direct passenger link between the United States and Kent and will initially operate during the spring and summer. The move follows a feasibility study carried out by air industry consultants.

SEP 07, 2006    Bookings start for Manston flights to Virginia
Cosmos Holidays has launched its travel brochure for next year’s transatlantic service from Manston to Virginia, which will see thousands of American tourists flocking to the county each year. The direct charter flights to the American colonial state will be the first of their kind in the UK.

OCT 11, 2006    US flights a £20m annual boost to county’s economy
The once-a-week service, which begins next spring, will bring in £5m from May to October 2007, it was claimed. And if the route becomes permanent the financial boost for Kent could be four times that figure a year if US tourists stayed for just four days each, according to Tony Freudmann.

DEC 27, 2006    Travel agent is to be based on-site at Manston airport
Brockmans will be selling holidays and flights from Kent International from firms including Kent Escapes, which is operating to Benidorm, Majorca and Faro, Cosmos, which is flying to Norfolk, Virginia, in the USA and Newmarket Holidays which is offering flights to Italy.

FEB 28, 2007    Cosmos pulls out of Manston as US flight plans grounded
It is understood the flights to and from Virginia had sold just 600 tickets in the UK – and a mere 200 in the US. That represents just ten per cent of the tickets available for the planned weekly service. It is a blow to Kent County Council which backed the operator as soon as it showed interest in using the airport.

That’s it… one year from start to finish.

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