By Kris Jepson
Newcastle International bosses have told ITV News Tyne Tees the airport will be 'crucial' to regional economy when the North East exits the coronavirus lockdown.
The Planning and Corporate Affairs Director at the airport, Graeme Mason, said "the airport is a crucial part of the regional infrastructure both during a crisis, but then obviously when the recovery comes, the airport is going to be one of the most fundamental points of the plan to recover the region".
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The airport, which usually contributes more than £1.1 billion to the North East economy, has grounded 98 per cent of its flights since the government announced the UK-wide lockdown.
During this period a skeletal service has continued to operate, but in oder to provide transportation for essential services during the pandemic crisis effort.
At the moment we just have one flight a day, four days a week operating, compared to, you know, over 50 flights a day during normal times, so at the moment we’re operating between 9am and 1pm, five days a week....We’ve had military flights, we’ve had freight flights, we had medical flights, so without that lifeline, the region would suffer even more so the, you know, the airport is a crucial part of the regional infrastructure both during a crisis, but then obviously when the recovery comes, the airport is going to be one of the most fundamental points of the plan to recover the region.
The airport supports more than 18,000 jobs directly and indirectly through its supply chain.
One business in its supply chain is Hart Doors Systems Ltd, who produce snd manufacture unique doors, which can be used in airports and other important facilities.
The company has continued to serve its clients, by splitting the shift patterns in two, allowing staff to work at social distance.
Contracts Manager, Kyle Pendergood, told ITV News "As a business we’ve got key sites that still need attending. We’ve got a lot of waste sites, food places and a lot of places that still need that upkeep of their doors servicing, so for us it’s been key and that’s been recognised to our clients as well, because we’ve been available to attend when required."
Managing Director, Nick Hart, said the survival of the airport is vital to local firms like his.
Part of our sell is that we’re only an eight hour flight away from Dubai, so we’re not on the other side of the world, we’re eight hours away, you need our support for any reason, we can be there in eight hours directly from Newcastle. Likewise, you can come and visit us and we’re only a few miles away from the airport. So if this airport wasn’t to survive this epidemic then it would be a real problem for us.