MORE than 20,000 extra passengers are set to fly out of Blackpool’s resurgent airport this year, it was revealed today.
And bosses say the Squires Gate hub, which has also halved its losses and could soon expand to include new routes, is back on track after years of tough trading conditions.
But airport chiefs also warned residents they must continue to support the facility if they want to secure its future.
Owner Balfour Beatty has ploughed £27m into the airport since the firm bought it in 2008.
It was losing £4.5m a year but measures, including the introduction of the £10 Airport Development Fee in 2009, have now seen losses reduced to £2m a year.
Cash has been invested in maintaining the runway and apron parking area and the departure lounge has just been fully refurbished.
Airline Jet2, which has two holiday jets based at Blackpool, has proved a massive success, selling on average 95 per cent of seats on its flights from the resort.
Airport director Paul Rankin said: “We have been very successful in reducing costs and we are now positioned to take up opportunities presented by an upturn in the aviation industry.”
Mr Rankin added: “Jet2 has been exceptionally successful with a 95 per cent load factor on most of their flights.
“They have introduced three additional routes this year and so we are expecting an additional 20,000 passengers using the airport in 2013.
“We have not had the growth forecast when Balfour Beatty took over, but there are signs of growth.
“We are positive the airport can move towards a ‘break even’ position but it would be on the back of further capacity from Jet2 or attracting an additional airline.
“One additional holiday jet based here would enable the airport to break even.
“We have a good, lean operation here which is ready to take advantage when those opportunities come along.
“Other small airports are losing more than Blackpool. Plymouth has closed, while Coventry closed and then re-opened.
“We are moving in the right direction, but we do need the support of all our stake-holders, and residents, to ensure we reach our potential.”
Mr Rankin said future destinations from the airport could include Amsterdam and Barcelona.
Airport bosses recently met with councillors as part of a town hall scrutiny of outside bodies the council has a stake in.
The council retains a five per cent share in the airport.
Blackpool Council’s deputy leader, Coun Fred Jackson, said the additional 20,000 passengers expected to use the airport in 2013 was “very good news.”
He said: “This is a huge boost for the economy of Blackpool.
“I would encourage local people to use this airport. The advantage is it’s right on our doorstep meaning no taxi or train fares to Manchester. .”
At the peak of the aviation market in 2007, Blackpool was handling more than 500,000 passengers.
Around 230,000 passengers are expected through the hub this year – up from about 210,000 last year.
New routes to Ibiza, Lanzarote and Dalaman have been introduced by Jet2 for 2013, bringing the total number of Jet2 routes from Blackpool to nine – also including Alicante, Murcia, Faro, Majorca, Malaga and Tenerife.
A spokesman for Jet2 said: “We’re thrilled with the success of our three new routes from Blackpool Airport, all of which have been overwhelmingly popular for both Jet2.com and Jet2holidays.
“We will continue to monitor interest in these routes.”
Aer Lingus and City Wings offer commercial flights from Blackpool, while the hub is also home to other operations including flying schools, the North West Air Ambulance and helicopter bases.
The 400 acre site sees around 50,000 aircraft movements a year.