Airport chiefs dismiss fears over future

PRESTWICK'S cash-strapped airport bosses have dismissed as "insignificant" the loss of weekly flights to Poland after a Hungarian airline opted to switch services to Glasgow.

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Airline chiefs at Wizz Air reckon they can attract a lot more passengers by moving their Scottish base to the country's biggest airport, despite operating out of Ayrshire since 2006.

Wizz is already selling tickets online for flights out of Glasgow to Warsaw and Gdansk.

The twice weekly service will be launched on March 1 and single fares start at £23.99, as revealed in later editions of last night's Evening Times.

The airline is the biggest low-cost operator in Eastern and Central Europe and its decision to switch airports could not have come at a worst time for Prestwick bosses.

The Ayrshire coastal hub is a loss maker and its New Zealand owners, Infratil, has been trying to find a buyer for the last year after putting Prestwick and a sister airport at Kent Manston on the open market last January.

Both had a combined value of £44million in March, 2011, but in the run-up to Christmas it was revealed their combined value had plummeted to just £10.5m, even though the New Zealanders had paid Stagecoach £33.4m for Prestwick.

Prestwick had once been the Scots capital for TransAtlantic flights but lost its crown decades ago. Glasgow Airport now has more long-haul flights than any other Scottish rival.

Ryanair is now the only airline to use Prestwick. The Irish budget carrier also has a major maintenance hub at the airport and claims to be committed to Prestwick, while the cash-stricken airport has tried to play down the loss of Wizz Air.

A management spokesman said: "The loss of Wizz from March is disappointing after a long, positive and productive relationship but is relatively insignificant as its flights only account for a very small percentage of our total summer schedule.

"Our long-term partner Ryanair, on the other hand, has once again demonstrated its commitment to Prestwick by increasing capacity here by 10% to 27 routes for summer 2013."

gordon.thomson@ eveningtimes.co.uk

Travel

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