Scotland business

Losses increase at Glasgow Prestwick Airport

Prestwick airport

Glasgow Prestwick Airport recorded a loss of more than £9m last year, according to its annual accounts.

The Scottish government-owned airport made a pre-tax loss of £9.2m for 2015-2016 - an increase on the £8.9m loss the previous year.

The airport said the losses reported were less than the figure forecast in its budget.

Ministers bought the airport for just £1 from owners Infratil in late 2013 amid fears it could close.

The government estimated in December that the bailout could reach £40m by 2018.

The annual report from TS Prestwick Holdco Limited - the company set up up to acquire the airport on behalf of Scottish ministers - shows the airport flew 17 routes to five different countries in 2015-2016.

Other figures in the report for that financial year show the airport handled:

  • 624,000 passengers
  • 11,409 tonnes of air cargo
  • 23,929 aircraft movements (flights in and out)

Analysis from BBC Scotland transport correspondent David Henderson

In the coming months, bosses at Prestwick will set out a five-year plan designed to make the airport's profits soar. And they're under pressure to deliver. The Scottish government has pledged to give almost £9.5m in loans to the airport in the current financial year. By the end of the year, taxpayers' stake in Prestwick will have risen to £39.5m.

But ministers are determined to keep Prestwick airport open, to safeguard jobs at the cluster of aerospace firms there.

So the goal must be to attract more passengers and airlines to Prestwick. For now, Ryanair's the only airline which flies scheduled services from Prestwick. But attracting others may be difficult. Prestwick already faces intense competition from Glasgow and Edinburgh airports, which are ambitious for growth - and more convenient for central belt passengers.

There's one other stellar possibility, which could turn around Prestwick's fortunes. The airport, along with Machrihanish on the Kintyre peninsula, are on the short-list of airports vying to become the UK's first spaceport.

For now, the legislation required to enable that first commercial spaceport has been put in a holding pattern, by Brexit.

But there's a growing market for launching small or nano-satellites, which could be used for communications such as broadband. Both Scottish sites want to tap into this market, and lay down the infrastructure for future projects like space tourism.

Prestwick may fit the bill. It has a huge runway - long enough to have been earmarked by NASA for emergency landings of America's Space Shuttle, although that never happened. Its supporters say what Prestwick has is too good to waste - and that it deserves a chance to be transformed into a space hub.

Ryanair is currently the only scheduled airline flying to and from Prestwick.

The airport also handles some charter flights - including recent flights to and from the Open golf.

The number of flights include freight transport flights - and movement through fixed based operations (FBO's), for example executive, military, and general aviation.

A spokesperson for Glasgow Prestwick said the airport had a new executive team in place who were working to rebuild the business.

The statement added: "The repositioning of the business will take time. We believe we are starting to move in the right direction with passenger numbers increasing, new property leases being agreed and the securing of a US government fuel contract in financial year ending 31 March 2017.

"We had forecast increased losses in financial year ending 31 March 2016. This was primarily due to the movement of a number of Ryanair flights to other airports.

"However, the losses reported are less than what was forecast in our budgets."

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