Kent flights to USA scrapped

LOW DE­MAND: Cos­mos and Kent County Coun­cil were fac­ing po­ten­tially huge losses de­spite strong pro­mo­tion of flights

Kentish Express Ashford & District - - ROUNDABOUT -

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.

Cal­cu­lated risk

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

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