A tendering operation has been ongoing to find a suitable company to run the airport as the current contract is due to run out, but the council has announced it will instead be creating a new subsidiary company, Blackpool Airport Operations Ltd, to manage Squires Gate.
The airport, which was bought by the council from Balfour Beatty in September 2017 for £4.25m, had been run by Stratford-based Regional and City Airports, part of the Rigby Group, which owns four airports of its own and had the licences to run two others including Blackpool.
The council said the surprise move was a step towards achieving the airport’s longer term goals. These include maximising opportunities for growth; achieving a greater level of control and flexibility to take sound investment decisions; to be more efficient and cost effective; and to ensure a long-term, sustainable future for one of England’s oldest airports and a key
strategic asset for the Fylde Coast.
The Civil Aviation Authority licences will now be transferred to the new company's name later in the year. The council said this would bring the airport into line with most others in the country, where the licences are held by the airport owner rather than the management contractor as had been the case.
Stephen Smith will remain as airport manager and the move will have no impact on jobs or ongoing operations.
The council said RCA had done an excellent job in helping steer the airport through some difficult times in recent years, not least the ongoing pandemic, when the airport has remained fully operational throughout.
It added that RCA has pledged to work closely with BAOL, airport owners Blackpool Council and the CAA to ensure a smooth and seamless transition of the licences.
Coun Gillian Campbell, chairman of the Board at Blackpool Airport Operations Ltd (BAOL) said, “The tender process for operational and management contracts has now come to an end and the Board has made the decision to bring the airport licences in-house.
"BAOL and Blackpool Council thank RCA for all their hard work over the past few years and are now working with them to facilitate a smooth transition of airport operations.
“We should not underestimate the size and complexity of the task ahead of us, but with the support and dedication of the airport staff, the Board have every confidence in the team to take our airport forward to a brighter, more sustainable and profitable future.”
To date Blackpool Council said it had invested nearly £2m in the upgrade and maintenance of essential infrastructure, with further significant investment planned.
The council bought the airport following the stewardship of Balfour Beatty when it had been losing money at the rate of £2m a year while operating commercial airline flights with Jet2.
Balfour Beatty closed the airport for several months in 2014 as a result. It re-opened in 2015 for general aviation and helicopter flights to the gas rigs in Morecambe Bay, but no commercial operator came forward to bring back airliners to Squires Gate.
The airport became an enterprise zone in 2016 with a masterplan being produced in a bid to create thousands of jobs around the site and explore options for future aviation.
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