Kent flights to USA scrapped
LOW DEMAND: Cosmos and Kent County Council were facing potentially huge losses despite strong promotion of flights
DIRECT flights between Kent and the United States, due to take off in May, have been cancelled.
In what is a huge blow to Kent’s aspirations to become an international aviation hub, Cosmos, the Bromley-based holiday operator, and Kent County Council pulled the plug to avert huge potential losses.
Only 800 tickets – 600 British and 200 American – had been sold in the six months since the weekly service between Kent International Airport and Norfolk International Airport, Virginia, was announced in September. The flights, to be operated by Monarch Airlines, had a capacity of 10,000 seats.
Cosmos had asked KCC to give financial guarantees. But senior KCC members turned down the request at an emergency meeting on Tuesday.
KCC, already scarred by the collapse of EUjet nearly two years ago and the loss of £100,000, is likely to lose another six-figure sum already invested in the ill-fated project.
It is also another political blow to the council which has gambled on the flights cementing growing social, educational and business links with Virginia.
A decision to abort the service had already been considered on two previous occasions because of weak ticket sales. But it was put off in the hope that book- ings would pick up after a publicity blitz in local and national newspapers.
This failed to happen. Despite the weak dollar, the new service was hit by a significant downturn in holiday bookings to North America across the travel industry, blamed on fears of terrorism and tough US visa requirements.
KCC leader Paul Carter, said: “The direct flights project was just one part of our initiatives to regenerate east Kent. It was a calculated risk that had significant potential and could have delivered major benefits for the region. Enormous efforts have been made on both sides of the Atlantic to promote the flights.
“But, despite putting back the deadline for decision three times, in order to see if the market would respond and pick up, sales have failed to reach a critical mass. In the absence of any other organisation prepared to share the financial risk of continuing with the project, it would not be prudent or viable to invest public money in the venture.”
Cosmos said it was very disappointed. The Virginia Beaches and Beyond programme is one of its very few new holiday ventures to be cancelled. It declined to say how much money it would cost the company. A WATER company supplying 580,000 customers in Kent has finally lifted its hosepipe ban. Mid Kent is the last water company in the region to allow residents to start using hosepipe and sprinklers again. The company’s ban was revoked more than 18 months after being introduced. The other water companies supplying homes and businesses in Kent lifted similar bans earlier this year – Thames Water and Southern Water in January and South East Water in February. Mid Kent Water said it was now able to lift the ban because levels in underground aquifers it relies on are now rising thanks to the above average rainfall this winter. A 24-year-old woman was struck in the face with a bottle at a Kent night spot. The incident happened at BaaBars nightclub in Station Road East in Canterbury. Police say there was an argument between two women. A bottle, which did not break, was thrown and the 24-year-old victim, from Canterbury, received a black eye and bruising. A 20-year-old Canterbury woman has been arrested on suspicion of assault and released on police bail. KENT Police have taken key steps to improve the way they deal with reports of serious incidents at schools. The move follows an inquiry into how police responded to four phone calls about an intruder at St Stephen’s Junior School in Canterbury last September. No one was hurt in the incident, but the Chief Constable, Mike Fuller, ordered an immediate investigation and review of policy because a patrol did not attend after the school called police. The inquiry recommended the force introduce new measures to improve the police response to calls from schools. A GIRL of 10 who put a life-saving call in to the South East Coast Ambulance Service on behalf of her mother has been rewarded with a certificate. Lauren Manktelow-Wells, from Chatham, called 999 after her mother, Trudy, collapsed at home in August 2006. Unknown to Lauren or her mother, Trudy was suffering from untreated diabetes. Technician Kay Townsey, who attended to the emergency with paramedic Maureen Rice, said: “When we arrived there was a little girl there who was obviously very concerned about her mum.” A LANDLORD and two customers were seriously injured when they tried to break up an altercation between two men in the toilets of a pub on Saturday. The incident occurred at the Nottingham Castle in Beach Road at Westgate, near Margate. Police say the 58-year-old landlord is being treated for a fractured skull and cheekbones, a broken nose and bleeding to the brain. A 30-year-old Westgate man was punched and needed stitches, while the third victim, a 35-year-old Westgate man, was struck across the head with a bottle. A STARVING dog, found covered in tumours and dumped, has had to be put down by the RSPCA. The adult brindle boxer-type crossbreed dog was found in such a terrible condition that she was barely able to stand. She was discovered at the Sheppey Plant Industrial Estate, Rushenden, Sheppey.
Cosmos pledged that all customers booked to travel would be offered the choice of a full refund or an alternative Cosmos holiday. The company already offers holidays in Virginia.
Stuart Jackson, product and commercial director: “Despite huge sales and marketing efforts from within the company and indeed everyone involved in the project including our industry partners in the USA, the bookings generated have not met targets.
“This is due partly to the general downturn in bookings to the USA. Everyone concerned is deeply disappointed with the outcome.”
Lauren Manktelow-Wells receives her certificate from ambulance staff