BOURNEMOUTH Airport was one of the busiest in the UK during the coronavirus lockdown and is planning for a “return to growth”, its boss says.

More than 50million pieces of personal protective equipment (PPE) came into the UK through Hurn as cargo services there were ramped up.

The airport also became a tourist attraction, with 43 big passenger jets parked at the height of the lockdown.

The airport’s managing director, Stephen Gill, said passenger traffic has started a “fragile recovery” and that the airport intends to take advantage of passenger growth when it happens.

He told the Daily Echo: “Through the downturn and very challenging times, we’ve probably been one of the busiest, which has been quite a nice place to be.

“We’ve been as innovative and creative as we can be and we became almost somewhat of a tourist attraction, with 43 parked BA aircraft.

Bournemouth Airport has 'unprecedented' number of planes parked

“So we were able to help them out they were able to help us out. That worked and it’s nice to see them progressively returning into service.

“We continued to operate with military operations and we have been very proud to be part of the emergence of a cargo operation from the airport, with European Airways converted A340s. They have been flying PPE in on behalf of the NHS. They have flown in over 50m items of PPE and we’re really proud to be part of that effort.

“We’re keen for that to continue not just for PPE but to build upon this initiative and to continue to provide a cargo service for the region.”

Return of commercial flights at Bournemouth Airport

Ryanair returned its Bournemouth-based aircraft to service on July 1, offering a curtailed schedule to 12 destinations. TUI is due to return on August 1, with flights to six destinations.

Mr Gill said each airline was “offering probably about 40-50 per cent" of the services they offered a year ago but that early demand had been “really strong”.

The airport has put in place a host of social distancing measures. Only passengers are allowed into the terminal, unless they need assistance. Check-in staff ensure passengers have face coverings and they are urged to use hand sanitisers. Signs from Public Health England show passengers how to navigate their way through the terminal. All payment is cashless.

Bournemouth Airport sold for undisclosed sum to Regional and City Airports

Bournemouth Airport was bought in 2017 by Regional & City Airports, whose parent company is the Rigby Group. Mr Gill said passenger numbers grew by around 25 per cent in the year before the coronavirus lockdown.

He added: "We had services lined up to continue to grow that this year unfortunately we’re going in the other direction.

"But a lot of the ground work we’ve done with our airlines we will continue to do and I would hope we will once again be in the right place at the right time to return to growth and fulfil that potential when the time is right."