ROYAL Mail chiefs last night performed a major U-turn by deciding to retain the mail flights service at Liverpool John Lennon airport.
They had planned to axe the £6m operation with effect from January 2004 as part of a national shake-up of air mail flights.
It was planned to move the service to East Midlands airport.
But mail chiefs last night called staff together at Liverpool JLA to tell them that mail flights will remain at the airport.
It is believed the change of heart came about following pressure from politicians, trade unions and business leaders. The Daily Post understands that Royal Mail were forced to reconsider after pleas by Liverpool JLA, the Communication Workers' Union and Garston Labour MP Maria Eagle.
Now, Royal Mail is understood to have told plane operators Emerald and Dart that it will require three flights a night for Liverpool.
Although this figure marks a drop from the current nine nightly flights, industry sources say more flights from East Midlands could be switched to Liverpool.
Around 200 jobs are linked to the airport mail operation and CWU Merseyside assistant branch secretary Paul Bennett said they would do all they can to preserve all of them.
He said: "The fact that there is an operation going to remain at Liverpool is excellent news for us."
Garston MP Maria Eagle also welcomed the news, describing it as a victory for common sense.
She said: "It will be a brilliant victory for the airport, the postal workers there, and for common sense.
"It will also be a tribute to the support of local MPs and other agencies who have rallied round.
"I am glad Royal Mail have been convinced of the benefits of keeping an air operation in Liverpool, and I hope they will even expand it in the future."
Liverpool JLA corporate affairs manager Robin Tudor said he could not comment on what impact the new level of flights would have on the operation until the airport had the exact details.
He said: "It is difficult to predict because it depends on the size of the planes they will use, but we hope to see Royal Mail continue operations at Liverpool for the foreseeable future."
Royal Mail declined to comment. A spokeswoman said: "We would expect to tell our staff first."