Glasgow Prestwick Airport sets out strategy

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Charter freight growth is the future for cargo operations at Glasgow Prestwick Airport (PIK) helping to secure the Scottish aviation hub’s future, the gateway’s own strategy has stated.

The strategy published on 31 October explains that the airport, which was taken into public ownership last year, is in a, “perfect location,” as it is on the great circle route between North America and the Middle East and it is Scotland’s “premier dedicated freight airport”. It is also the first mainland airport between the US and Europe and is therefore  positioned for transatlantic freight and fuel stops. The findings explain that existing freighters are likely to be displaced from congested UK airports in the South and so present opportunities to other parts of the country. The report cites Prestwick’s full range of freight handling equipment, it also deals with ad-hoc charters ranging from livestock, oil well equipment and aircraft engines. It has 24 hour unrestricted operations, seven days a week.

Prestwick airport chief executive, Iain Cochrane, says: “We believe freight presents a number of excellent opportunities. We have the longest commercial runway in Scotland which can handle the world’s largest freighters such as Boeing 747s and Antonovs. Encouragingly, tonnage here is up 38 per cent this year over last and we are now focused on further development opportunities.”

The emphasis on charter is because the report says it is not anticipated that there will be significant changes to the scheduled operation of freighters in the foreseeable future. The airport serves the dedicated freighter market with two scheduled airfreight carriers operating eight services per week. However, scheduled operations has seen a negative 10.7 per cent Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) in the period since 2000, though volumes have stabilised in recent years. The decline of the Scottish electronics industry and the recession have been blamed for the number of airlines serving PIK decreasing over recent years.

The strategy was developed to review the business of Prestwick Airport and its operational structure. It identifies key strengths and opportunities, how revenue base can be broadened and capital and development expenditure plans. In 2013, – Heathrow Airport, East Midlands Airport and Stansted Airport – accounted for 83.9 per cent of UK air cargo. In 2000 the figure was just 71 per cent. The report says that other airports have not only lost share but absolute freight volumes have also dropped. The expectation is that with an improving world economy, Prestwick could benefit from increased demand where outsize charter cargo is concerned. The strategy says: “This requires a very high standard of handling expertise and capability. With PIK’s excellent reputation for handling such cargo along with their existing strong relationships with the customers this is expected to continue to be an area of growth.”

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