Glasgow Prestwick airport expects that its government shareholder will provide more investment and planning security to attract business from a range of customers spanning passenger, cargo and military operators.

In 2013, Scotland's regional government acquired the gateway from New Zealand-based infrastructure group Infratil in order to prevent its imminent closure, as the airport and surrounding businesses – such as maintenance facilities used by British Airways and Ryanair – employ a staff of around 4,000.

In the past, the airport struggled to make larger investments because its previous owner demanded a return of the funding within a year, Prestwick's commercial chief Graeme Sweenie told Flightglobal at Routes Europe in Aberdeen.

This stipulation prevented management from making long-term decisions and investments. Under government ownership, says Sweenie, the airport has started upgrading certain terminal facilities and is devising incentives to attract airlines to Prestwick.

Central European low-cost carrier Wizz Air has transferred all operations to Glasgow airport last year, while Ryanair shifted its routes aimed at business passengers to the neighbouring gateway. The Irish budget airline still operates a number of leisure flights from Prestwick.

Sweenie acknowledges that the airport will not be able to sustain its business with passenger flights alone. Instead, Prestwick must focus on advantages such as having a longer runway than Glasgow, which has attracted cargo carriers. He cites defence operators as a further revenue source, with governments aiming to use more civilian gateways as military airfields have been closed.

Prestwick has also been shortlisted as a candidate airport to serve as a UK spaceport.

Earlier this year, Audit Scotland concluded that the government's acquisition of Prestwick was "reasonable" given the "tight deadline and in uncommon circumstances" attending its sale. But Scotland's auditor general, Caroline Gardner, advised the government and airport operator to implement a "clear" strategy with "robust business and financial plans, full evaluation of potential risks, and a well-defined, regularly reviewed exit strategy".

Prestwick is targeting passenger numbers of 560,000-570,000 for the full year, says Sweenie.

Source: Cirium Dashboard