Owner declares ‘no regrets’ as PrestwickAirport follows Edinburgh to market

SCOTLAND’S fourth-biggest airport was last night put up for sale by its New Zealand-based owners – as the future of the country’s busiest airport still hangs in the balance.

Glasgow Prestwick Airport, in Ayrshire, has gone on the market just five months after it emerged BAA was selling off Edinburgh Airport, after an intervention by the Competition Commission.

Infrastructure investment giant Infratil had warned last year that Prestwick, around 30 miles south of Glasgow, was under threat due to dwindling passenger numbers.

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Numbers slumped by nearly a third to just 1.4 million in two years at the airport, which was bought by Infratil ten years ago from Perth-based transport giant Stagecoach for £33.4 million.

One of two main bases for budget airline Ryanair, Prestwick has suffered as the operator has switched flights to Edinburgh. The new owner of Edinburgh Airport is not expected to be confirmed until the summer.

Prestwick, and Manston in Kent, Infratil’s other UK airport, which has also been put up for sale, made a combined loss of £6m in the 12 months to March last year.

The company said it had put them up for sale as a result of a shake-up of its investment plans.

Speaking in New Zealand, chief executive Marco Bogoievski said the sale of the two airports were “no regret” decisions and used the airports as examples of the company’s “under-performing assets”.

However, Prestwick’s chief executive Iain Cochrane said: “Prestwick is a great airport with a great team and a great future.

“I believe this is an excellent opportunity for us to attract new investment to provide the stimulus for future growth.

“It’s business as usual as the busy summer season approaches and we’re totally focused on looking after our customers.”

Ayr Tory MSP John Scott said: “I’m enormously concerned about this news, particularly because it will put at risk the many employees of Prestwick Airport.

“I regret Infratil feel they have to sell the airport, but hopefully it will offer an opportunity for a new buyer to be found.

“Prestwick is one of Scotland’s finest airports. It has been open throughout the past two winters when other airports in Scotland were not. It kept the Scottish economy going.”

Prestwick’s aviation history dates back to 1913, when the first aircraft are recorded using the current site and it went on to be developed as a training airfield.

Air travel pioneer David McIntyre set up Scottish Aviation in 1935 and acquired 348 acres of countryside. By the end of that year, accommodation had been developed including a hangar for Tiger Moth biplanes, offices, lecture rooms and a small control tower. During the Second World War, the airfield developed into a major hub for the American aircraft.

The original terminal building was demolished in 1966, two years after the opening of a brand new building, which exists to this day.

Prestwick reinvented itself to serve budget airline Ryanair after losing its status as Scotland’s sole transatlantic gateway in the 1980s. The airport has a place in pop folklore, after Elvis Presley set foot on British soil for the only time during a stop, while his US army troop carrier was heading for Germany in 1960.