BOURNEMOUTH Airport is under new ownership today.

It has been bought for an undisclosed sum by Regional and City Airports.

The Daily Echo revealed on Saturday that the sale by the Manchester Airport Group to RCA was imminent.

RCA's owner, Sir Peter Rigby has been a frequent visitor to Bournemouth Airport in recent months.

The move could herald a significant expansion in holiday flights and destinations and a renewed drive for Bournemouth to be a regional business hub.

MAG has been looking for a buyer for some time after it failed to deliver on its own ambitious, long term plans to generate up to three million passengers a year at Bournemouth.

This was despite a £45m investment almost ten years in a new terminal, arrivals hall and other facilities.

Last year it handled 700,000 passengers, the majority using Ryanair and TUI services.

RCA already has Exeter, Coventry and Norwich airports in its portfolio.

It also has contracts to operate Solent (formerly Daedelus), City of Derry and Blackpool.

The company says the acquisition shows the Rigby Group's "ongoing intent to be a significant player in the UK's vital regional airports market."

It says it is creating "an entity capable of offering passengers throughout the South a highly credible alternative to the major London airports."

Group chairman, Sir Peter said: "The acquisition of Bournemouth represents an important landmark in our strategy to create a robust and credible group of regional airport assets and services across the UK.

"Not only does it expand our catchment to include the major regions of the south of England, but also focuses operations on a core market poorly serviced by the major aviation players."

RCA chief executive, Andrew Bell described Bournemouth as one of the south's flagship aviation hubs.

The day to day management of the 200-acre business park, home to some world leading companies such as Cobham and Curtiss Wright, will be handled by Rigby Real Estate.

Rigby Group chief operating officer, Steve Rigby, said Bournemouth was "ripe for growth."

He added: "Growing demand for both UK and international flights in nearby Southampton offers significant scope to increase passenger numbers while the site's potential as a regional business hub also represents a clear opportunity for expansion.

"We are here to do business."

Charlie Cornish, Chief Executive of MAG, added: “Bournemouth Airport and its people have been part of our company for a long time.

"RCA has a detailed integration plan in place to ensure a seamless transition of ownership and operations at Bournemouth which will maintain business as usual for passengers and customers.