Manston Airport 'could close within three weeks'

Manston Airport
Image caption Manston Airport was bought by Stagecoach co-founder Ann Gloag in 2013

Kent's Manston Airport could close as early as 9 April, its chief executive Charles Buchanan has said.

Staff were told on Wednesday that a 45-day consultation was being held over the loss-making airport's future.

The government's aviation minister Robert Goodwill has described its threatened closure as "disturbing".

In an email to customers seen by the BBC, Mr Buchanan said the situation had arisen as a result of "ongoing operational losses".

He said "the lack of reliable prospect of profitability in the medium term" was another reason.

A task force is being set up to assess the impact and help support the 144 staff affected, while a petition against the closure has already attracted more than 5,000 signatures.

On Thursday, Thanet MP Sir Roger Gale asked Mr Goodwill in Parliament to look into how the airport could be kept open in the "national interest".

National asset

Mr Goodwill told the Commons he would meet him to talk about its future.

The airport was bought by the co-founder of the Stagecoach Group, Ann Gloag, for £1 in October last year.

Sir Roger said he believed the former RAF airfield was a national asset which should be kept open.

He told the House of Commons: "Yesterday the owner of Manston in Kent announced the proposed closure of that very important airfield.

"Given that Manston has the fourth-longest runway in the country, is a major diversion field and a search and rescue base would my right honourable friend, in the national interest, review this to see how Manston may be kept open?"

'Devastating blow'

Mr Goodwill replied: "It's disappointing that Manston has not been able to attract some of the low cost carriers that they were hoping to do so, but I'll be happy to meet with the honourable gentlemen to see if there can be a way forward."

Travel journalist Simon Calder believes there is an "inevitability" about Manston's closure, however.

He said: "If you're a small airport on the edge of south-east England and you have such strong competitors not too far away like Gatwick and Stansted - I'm afraid the future doesn't look very optimistic."

On Wednesday, the leader of Thanet District Council, Clive Hart, described the airport's possible closure as "potentially a devastating blow" to the local economy.

Unite regional officer Ian McCoulough said he was "seeking clarification from the management" about the airport's future.

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