PASSENGER flights at Prestwick Airport are being cut to as few as one a day from next month, The Scotsman can reveal.
The Ayrshire airport, bought by the Scottish Government last year to save it from closure, will handle its fewest flights for more than 20 years after Ryanair switched several routes to Glasgow. Around 25 jobs have also been lost.
Airport chiefs hope the revival of Prestwick’s airshow this weekend will help boost its ailing fortunes.
Ryanair’s reduced winter timetable includes only one regular flight on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. There will be two or three flights a day the rest of the week, compared to around 100 flights a day at Glasgow Airport and 130 at Edinburgh.
Two of the Prestwick flights – to Tenerife on Tuesdays and Thursdays – depart at 6:45am and the other, to Malaga on Wednesdays, takes off at 9:45am – leaving a question mark over the terminal and its shops and cafes for the rest of the day. It amounts to the fewest daily flights since before Ryanair launched services from Prestwick in 1994 with a twice-daily link to Dublin.
The no-frills airline will operate a total of 13 flights a week until March, two-thirds fewer than last winter’s 42. Its seven routes this winter compare to 27 in 2007.
Prestwick also handles around one cargo flight a day.
An airport spokesman said: “We have asked for volunteers for redundancy and are pleased that the response from the staff will mean that we will achieve the required level.”
The spokesman said this was “fewer than 25” people among the 361-strong workforce.
He said: “The terminal building will remain open. There are a number of tenants and retailers who utilise the building as well as airport staff.”
Ayr’s Conservative MSP John Scott said: “I have particular concern about the much-reduced winter schedule and how this will affect the viability of businesses working within the terminal. That’s why we need to redouble our efforts to bring other airlines to Prestwick.”
Labour infrastructure spokesman James Kelly said the news “raises serious concerns about the future of the airport”.
A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “The service changes are part of the normal revision process that airlines undertake to optimise their business and Ryanair has assured us of its continuing commitment to the airport.”
Up to 30,000 spectators are expected for today’s air display over Low Green in nearby Ayr. The show was held at Prestwick from 1967 to 1992 and became Scotland’s biggest, attracting up to 100,000 people in the 1980s.
It will feature a Lancaster, Hurricane and Spitfire from the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight, and a Lancaster from Canada – the only other one still flying.
Ryanair said last week it was only breaking even at Prestwick, but remained committed to the airport so long as its operations did not become loss making.
Aviation analyst John Strickland said the outlook was bleak.
He said: “Prestwick is now down to a rump winter operation, and Glasgow Airport has come out fighting in a way it hasn’t in the past - and is hungry for business.
“Now that Ryanair has a base at Glasgow it has less need for Prestwick, but as far as whether it will fly from there next winter, even the airline won’t know yet.”