Struggling Prestwick Airport received a major boost today with Ryanair announcing its first significant increase in flights there since the Scottish Government saved it from closure three years ago.
The airline will extend summer routes from the Ayrshire airport to Barcelona, Faro and Malta to operate year-round from this autumn, and add extra flights to Tenerife.
It is expected to increase passengers by 12 per cent after years of decline at Prestwick, where Ryanair is the only passenger airline.
Ryanair will also launch new four Spanish routes from Glasgow Airport to Alicante, Gran Canaria, Lanzarote and Malaga, and increase flights to Berlin.
The extra Glasgow flights are forecast to add 200,000 passengers to increase the total to 1.2 million.
In addition, six more winter routes will be flown from Edinburgh, to Bologna, Bordeaux, Bratislava, Gran Canaria, Palma and Poznan.
There will also be extra flights to Alicante, Barcelona, Copenhagen, Malaga, Rome and Tenerife.
Those are expected to boost Ryanair’s passengers at the capital’s airport - Scotland’s busiest - by 425,000 to 2.5m a year.
The expansion at Prestwick will see 20 Ryanair flights operating there in winter 2016-17 compared to 13 in 2014 and a similar number this winter.
However, the total is still less than half the 42 in 2013.
Ryanair chief marketing officer Kenny Jacobs, announcing the expansion in Glasgow, said it was expected to increase Prestwick passengers by 75,000 to 680,000 a year.
Mr Jacobs said the outlook now looked rosier for Prestwick.
He told The Scotsman: “It is working very well for us and demand is very high.
“There has been a decline at Prestwick over the last couple of years, but this shows it is going to grow again, by 12 per cent.
“We can do that again next year and the year after.”
Mr Jacobs attributed the expansion to extra demand for Spanish holidays following terrorist attacks in North Africa and Turkey, and extra aircraft being added to Ryanair’s fleet.
Ministers bought the airport for £1 in 2013 after New Zealand owners Infratil threatened to close it, putting thousands of jobs in the area at risk.
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “We welcome Ryanair’s ongoing commitment to Glasgow and Prestwick airports and will continue to work with them to expand their route network to and from Scotland.
“It is particularly encouraging to see new routes get off the ground at both airports, improving Scotland’s connectivity and giving holidaymakers even more options to choose from.”
Airport chief executive Richard Jenner said: “Glasgow Prestwick Airport has had a long standing commercial relationship with Ryanair for many years and we welcome their ongoing commitment through their announcement of additional flights today.
“We had an uplift in passenger numbers in December 2015 and January 2016 on figures for the same months the previous year.
“The announcement of these additional flights means this trend is set to continue.
“Flights departing from Glasgow Prestwick Airport fill up fast and passengers tell us they enjoy travelling through our airport.
“Our customer satisfaction with their airport experience sits steadily above 90 per cent, so we are confident that these additional flights will prove to be popular.”