BUDGET airline Ryanair has moved to reassure travellers in the Bournemouth area after unveiling a new base at Exeter Airport.

The company currently operates flights to Malaga and Malta from Bournemouth and has announced it will run the same routes from the new Devon base next summer.

It will also run flights to Naples, a route currently operated from Bournemouth by rivals TUI.

Ryanair has yet to announce which destinations will operate from Bournemouth next summer but said its programme will be published in the coming weeks.

Head of communications Robin Kiely said he believes there are enough customers for both airports to continue to grow.

He told the Daily Echo: “Exeter is an airport in its own right with a catchment of one-and-a-half million passengers and Bournemouth also has its own catchment area.

“There is no reason why the two airports can’t continue to grow and operate independently of each other.”

He said Bournemouth will see a new Ryanair winter flight to Paphos from November and that routes for April to October next year are being finalised.

The company hopes to attract 80,000 customers per year to its three new routes from Exeter, Ryanair’s 21st base in the UK.

Exeter Airport’s managing director Matt Roach described the announcement on Tuesday as a “significant vote of confidence”.

Passenger numbers at the airport have increased by 22 per cent to more than 900,000 in the past five years.

Mr Roach said: “These routes are popular destinations and offer customers even more choice and greater connectivity from their local airport.”

In December last year the Manchester Airport Group sold Bournemouth Airport to Regional and City Airports(RCA), owned by Sir Peter Rigby.

The sum paid was never revealed

RCA also owns Exeter Airport, along with Norwich, Blackpool, City of Derry, Coventry and Solent Airport. The company said at the time of the acquisition that it intended to create “an entity capable of offering passengers throughout the South a highly credible alternative to the major London airports”.