NEWCASTLE Airport bosses will fly out to the United States next month for fresh talks on the possibility of securing a direct service to New York.
Airport chief executive David Laws believes he can pull off his dream of securing a scheduled transatlantic service from Newcastle after the success of Emirates’ daily service to Dubai.
In an interview with nebusiness magazine, published free with The Journal tomorrow, Mr Laws reveals that talks with an unnamed American airline are scheduled for next month.
And he remains optimistic that a deal can be done – despite the recent decision by Continental Airlines to axe its service from Bristol to New York.
Mr Laws admits the high price of oil and uncertainty surrounding the Government’s plans for Air Passenger Duty have made the economic case for the route more difficult.
He said: “We’ve been close on New York (in the past) to the extent the airline has filed for slots, but then we had the economic downturn and the slots were taken away.
“That was the right decision because to try to start a route up in those circumstances, you don’t want it to crash and burn. When we go for it, you get one chance at this. If you get it wrong, there’s no way back.”
He added: “We need a strong pound against the dollar and we need fuel to be at a reasonable level. If fuel is $80 a barrel you’ve got a realistic chance, but if it’s hovering at $120 it’s difficult.”
Mr Laws said he was not too discouraged by the decision to axe the Bristol-New York service because the North East is far more geographically remote than the South West city where passengers can drive to Heathrow for a range of transatlantic routes.
And he said he was buoyed by the success of the Emirates’ service which ran at around 96% of capacity during July and is averaging around 83% for the year to date. He is hopeful such a performance will encourage the airline to grow capacity on the route by replacing the current aircraft with a new Boeing 777.
“I’d like to see it here within the next 12 months, but it might come quicker,” he said.
In the interview, Mr Laws talks at length about the challenges the airport has faced over recent years as a result of the economic downturn, the ash cloud from Iceland and several extended periods of bad weather. He also reveals plans to improve the immigration area to speed up the processing of international arrivals and his hopes to make further improvements to the security process, possibly including new body scanner technology.