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Last Updated: Thursday, 25 August 2005, 16:53 GMT 17:53 UK
Support for Kent airport buyout
Manston airport
A skeleton staff was kept on at Manston while a buyer was found
Political leaders have welcomed the announcement that Kent International Airport (KIA) is being bought by New Zealand-based air operator Infratil.

The 17m buyout of the Manston airport is due to be completed by Friday.

It was shut down after the collapse of previous owner PlaneStation and its budget airline EUjet.

Thanet South MP Stephen Ladyman has already asked to meet Infratil bosses, while council leaders have given their backing to the new owners.

Infratil chairman David Newman said: "We believe it has strong prospects as a freight airport servicing the south of England.

"It is also well situated to provide regional airline passenger services to Kent and the eastern side of the London conurbation, with 1.9m people within a 60-minute drive."

This is an excellent boost to the regeneration of the whole east Kent area
Thanet Council leader Sandy Ezekiel

Mr Newman said the operation would fit in with Infratil's existing European airport, Glasgow Prestwick.

"Both airports are set up to service the fastest-growing air transport segments - low cost airlines and air freight."

Dr Ladyman was pleased to the see the airport "in the hands of a serious investor with a sensible business plan and the expertise to unlock Manston's potential".

"I have already sent a message to them [Infratil] emphasising that it is essential that they take immediate steps to... provide people with assurances about night flying, pollution and job security for airport staff," he added.

Thanet Council leader Sandy Ezekiel said: "This is an excellent boost to the regeneration of the whole east Kent area."

Kent County Council and the East Kent Partnership also predicted economic benefits from the purchase.

Steven Fitzgerald
Mr Fitzgerald expects good business out to France, Italy and Spain

Infratil's Europe chief executive Steven Fitzgerald said the first services to be reinstated would be freight while passenger operations would take longer.

He said capital expenditure would be about 9m in the first three years with operating losses of between 8m and 10m.

"Our case recognises it will take some time to bring KIA to profitable operation as there are no existing services," he said.

'Additional employment'

A specialist large-scale redundancy team was brought in to work with 127 people made redundant at the airport.

Administrators kept a skeleton staff of 72 so that it remained operational.

Mr Fitzgerald said the company's first task was to ensure existing staff were gainfully employed.

"If we can generate some traffic then we hope to promote a lot of additional employment," he said.


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