THE new owners of Bournemouth Airport want it to be a "credible alternative" to London airports.

Discussions continue to take place with airlines to grow the number of flights from Bournemouth Airport, in a bid to ensure it remains competitive.

As reported yesterday, three new European routes have been announced for Bournemouth, starting in summer 2019.

Holidaymakers will be able to fly direct from the Hurn-based airport to Kefalonia and Heraklion (Crete) in Greece and Antalya in Turkey.

The announcement from TUI UK is the first programme to be launched after a rebrand last year.

A meeting of Bournemouth Airport's consultative committee earlier this month heard the full transition from previous owner Manchester Airports Group to Regional and City Airports would be completed by the middle of this year.

So far this year, the number of passengers were up on expectations - at 647,000 against a budget of 632,000.

This increase was attributed to the year-round Krakow flight and high load factors on all other routes.

Summer routes this year from Bournemouth include Ryanair's flights to Alicante, Malaga, Faro, Malta, Tenerife, Krakow, Gran Canaria, Murcia, Palma and Girona.

First Choice were also flying to Gran Canaria, Tenerife, Lanzarote, Mallorca, Corfu, Dalaman, Ibiza, Rhodes, Naples and Paphos.

Super Break were also operating a programme throughout the year.

The committee also heard from Steve Lilley, aviation development director for Regional and City Airports.

He told the meeting that Regional and City Airport's approach to aviation development was to drive sustainable passenger growth at owned and managed airports.

The focus was to increase the range of available services in order to better serve the local community, whether for business or leisure.

"Saving local passengers time and money by not needing to travel to other airports stimulated new demand and provided a boost to the local economy through enhanced connectivity", the meeting heard.

He said Bournemouth had the right ingredients for growth, with attractive attributes to market the airport to airline customers best placed to deliver growth, in terms of size of population, demographic, a diverse local business community and geographically closer to key European markets than other UK airports.

Europe's two leading low cost airlines were already present at Bournemouth, it was discussed at the meeting.

Growth was intended to be built by identifying network voids, building compelling business cases and developing strategic partnerships with key airlines.

However, challenges included timescales, air passenger duty and Brexit.

A discussion was also heard on potential airlines, operators and the merits of Bournemouth compared to other airports.

Paul Knight, managing director, Bournemouth Airport, said: “This week’s announcement of the three new European routes, following closely on the launch of our 2018 fight schedule to 25 destinations, shows that the airport’s fantastic potential is beginning to be realised under the new ownership of Regional & City Airports (RCA). This has to be great news for Dorset.”