The boss of Leeds Bradford Airport has pledged to make the hub more business focused and help attract new routes to commercial epicentres around the world.
David Laws, who took over at Leeds Bradford eight months ago, said that work was already underway to improve the infrastructure of the airport and that he and his team were developing a strategy to development new flights.
Mr Laws also revealed that the airport would undergo a rebranding exercise with a new logo bearing the slogan “Yorkshire’s Airport” and called upon passengers in the region to back the airport.
Mr Laws told The Yorkshire Post that he wanted to create “an airport that all of Yorkshire is proud of”.
He added: “Eight months in things are fantastic but the key now is getting out there and getting some more of the legacy carriers in.
“That is important, we need more business flights to areas such as Paris, Munich and Frankfurt. All of those kinds of places are really important and that’s what we need to go for.
“There is a wish from the local community to restore flights to Pakistan.”
The airport boss, who previously served as chief executive of Newcastle Airport, said that new lounges - including a new business lounge - as well as new commercial premises and will open in the coming weeks with further infrastructure improvements to follow.
Pointing towards research from the Civil Aviation Authority which showed the levels of locally-based residents who were choosing to fly from further afield, Mr Laws pledged to work with local business leaders to identify which destinations were most commercially important to the wider area.
“There is a fair amount [of business travel] that comes here, but there should be a lot more.
“Is that because leaving here and getting here is difficult? Is it because we haven’t got the services? Or is the infrastructure in and around the airport? I think it is a combination of all three.
“We are currently spending millions of pounds on improving the customer experience here. If I am putting the infrastructure right and then follow up next winter with operational changes to make people’s lives easier, if we can convince people that the station is key, and if we can bring that forward from 2023 - if we deliver all of this then the pressure is on us to get the services in that we need.
“The Chambers will talk to their members about where they are travelling to. We will feed that into our development strategy.”
Mr Laws said that a number of positive conversations had taken place with airlines so far with more to follow.
“Airlines work a year in advance,” he said.
“We are really trying to hone in on stuff for 2019. We might have one or two things this year but it is really going towards from 2019 and beyond.”
The airport enjoyed record passenger numbers in 2017 with more than four million people flying from or to the airport last year.
However it also suffered setbacks in the form of the collapse of Monarch Airlines and the recent decision of British Airways to reduce the number of flights it would operate between Leeds Bradford and the capital.
“To take those on the chin and still have a record year is testimony I think that people do want to fly from here,” Mr Laws said.
“If we get the product right and give them the services they want people will use this airport.
“Yorkshire people are very proud. They will want to use their own airport. That is why we are calling it Yorkshire’s Airport. We want to hear what they want.
“The airport has completely changed its profile and it has completely changed the way it is doing business.
“We are demonstrating that by working with the councils, chambers and other business associations. They are all keen to see the airport thrive.”
One of Mr Laws’ primary targets is to expedite the creation of a so-called Parkway station close to the airport.
The proposed station would be built on the existing railway line between Leeds and Harrogate and act as a park-and-ride scheme for commuters and connect to the airport via bus services.
The station, which could cost up to £25m to build, would be served by trains stopping at least every half hour
“The Parkway station is absolutely key,” he said.
“I said from day one that this will not be an overnight thing, Manchester is a massive machine.
“What we have to do is play to our strengths. I think there is a massive opportunity here.”