Kent is finally joined by air to the rest of Europe. EUjet’s new low cost services got off to a flying start yesterday when the first flight – a Fokker-100 – took off from Kent International Airport at Manston, at 6.15am for Dublin. It marked the start of a service that is set to boost east Kent and turn Kent at last into an aviation hub. It has already brought 300 new jobs to Thanet and there could be 100 more over the next 18 months.
Flights on day one were 75 per cent full, with more than 600 passengers flying to Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Dublin, Nice and Girona. A smaller number flew back to Manston, reflecting the lack of marketing effort by EUjet at the destination airports. By the end of the year, EUjet will be flying to 22 destinations including Prague, Madrid, Milan, Palma, Malaga, Turin, Edinburgh and Manchester.
Airline and airport bosses were delighted with how smoothly things had gone. P.J.McGoldrick, EUjet chief executive, admitted he had been nervous just before take-off. He has invested millions of pounds of his own money in the venture. But the performance had exceeded his expectations. He said:
“We have had an incredible start to what I believe to be an exciting development, not just for EUjet but also for Kent and this airport.”
Airport staff had turned the aircraft around in 26 minutes. Airport staff also aim to get luggage from aircraft to carrousel within eight minutes of the aircraft’s arrival on the terminal apron.
Kent County Council has invested £100,000 in EUjet. Councillor Alex King, Cabinet Member for Regeneration, said it was a gamble that was well worth taking. September 1 was a turning point that would mark the transition of east Kent from the difficulties of the Eighties and Nineties to a successful economy of the early 21st-century.
“This is the first public demonstration of Kent becoming the Go To county.”
PlaneStation, the airport owner, has invested £3million in preparing KIA for the launch of EUjet. One hundred extra staff have been taken on, including security experts. Alastair Robertson, airport chief, said:
“I would anticipate that we will be employing at least an additional 100 people in the next 12-18 months.”
He added that substantial investment had been made in the latest hi-tec and sensitive x-ray equipment. Councillor Jeff Kirkpatrick, chairman of Thanet Council, welcomed the launch of EUjet:
“It is just a great day for everyone here in Thanet. As a bonus to the residents, we will enjoy the privilege of just being able to pop down here and fly away. Things are really happening and today is the day it takes off for real.”
He added that residents should not be concerned about noise because every step had been taken to minimise it. There was no night flying and EUjet is using “extremely quiet aircraft”. EUjet may be the first airline to use KIA but it is unlikely to be the last. Airport chiefs are in talks with two other airlines interested in operating to other destinations. And charter services to Florida are expected to start next year.
kentonline 1st Sep 2004