Glasgow Airport chief calls for more support to be ready for 2022

A SCOTS airport chief issued a renewed call for support to allow the aviation sector to be ready to take off for 2022.

Glasgow Airport saw just a handful of travellers depart from the hub on days at the height of lockdown last year and even as more destinations move from red and amber travel lists to green, daily passenger numbers are still significantly lower at around 6000 to 9000.

A typical August day would have seen around 35,000 through the terminal.

Ronald Leitch, operations director at Glasgow Airport, said: “We have advocated for well over 16 months the requirement for specialist and sector support for aviation.

“In terms of government support to date, outside of furlough, it has been rates relief which was open to most businesses, but the relief there dwarfed significantly our losses.

“It was almost about one per cent of our losses overall.”

The airport’s parent company AGS Airports, which also operates Aberdeen and Southampton airports, has been pushing for an extension to furlough in a bid to aid recovery.

Mr Leitch added: “We are trying to maximise the use of furlough to have staff available should the green, amber and red countries change or should airlines decide to put some additional flights on, but due to the uncertainty of that no one can really predict what those schedules and loads are going to look like.”

Mr Leitch believes a partnership approach is needed for recovery coming out of the pandemic.

He added: “Our view is that we want to build back better, stronger, more sustainable from this.

“Never before has our industry or the country seen such a shockwave that essentially brought all services and normal life to a stop.

“For it to restart it is not necessarily a blank page, but it is an opportunity to say what lessons have we learned?

“How can we develop and our encouragement and ask of government at the moment is to start working on that now with pace.

“We fully understand that the health situation is a priority and we continue to play a part in that arena also, however we believe that there has to be individuals also taking a longer-term view.

“Whilst we are operating the airport on a day-to-day basis with far less passengers than ever before, and we are reacting to that on a short to medium term basis, we are in discussions with airlines now around operations in 2022 onwards.

“Airlines are looking at summer vacation routes for next year, and their question and challenge is why Glasgow? That is what we are trying to push and sell at the moment.

“Through the Chamber of Commerce, Glasgow City Council and Scottish Government, we are pushing that forward saying what is the city going to look like, what is the city attraction and what can bring people to the region.

“What we can’t wait for is a case of let’s get through the winter and think about that in April next year.”

Mr Leitch said a vibrant and thriving Glasgow was crucial for the airport which before the pandemic had seen annual passenger numbers reach almost 10million.

He added: “In terms of airlines and their decisions to operate routes, they don’t fly to Glasgow Airport because we have got a nice airport and a runway. They fly here because of this area, the region and primarily the city.

“Over a number of decades we have worked very closely with the Scottish Government, local authorities, other partnerships, whether it is chambers of commerce or academia to promote and help develop bids to bring events here.

“When the city does well the airport does well, that is how close we are.”

The Herald is leading a campaign for A Fair Deal for Glasgow, calling for the city’s venues and treasures to be funded appropriately and for both the Scottish and UK governments to come together to deliver a new funding plan for Glasgow’s culture and leisure services.

It was prompted by figures which showed the crippling impact the pandemic had on the council arms-length organisation which runs the city’s culture and leisure. Glasgow Life lost £38m in income last year.

Predicted income for 2021/22 is around £6.4m, and while Glasgow City Council has reached an agreement for it to receive a guaranteed £100m a year for the next three or four years, Glasgow Life has only been able to open 90 of its 171 venues.

Without further funds, it cannot open any further sites.

The Herald Scotland

The Herald Scotland

The Herald is a Scottish broadsheet newspaper founded in 1783. The Herald is the longest running national newspaper in the world and is the eighth oldest daily paper in the world. The title was simplified from The Glasgow Herald in 1992