PASSENGER numbers at Bournemouth Airport are set to rise this year although will not meet the giddy heights of former years.

Paul Knight, managing director of the airport at Hurn, revealed the figures at a recent meeting, saying March was a challenging month, with numbers originally down on budget due to the later start of the Ryanair operation mid-month.

But for 2012/13, it was anticipated that the full year passenger numbers would stand at 672,033, representing an 8.3% growth on the previous year’s figures of 619,727.

And the airport is expecting a five per cent growth in passenger numbers for 2013/14.

This still falls short of those seen in 2007 when Bournemouth Airport breached the 1 million passenger mark.

Since then, the airport, which is owned by Manchester Airports Group, has undergone a £47million transformation, with new departures and arrivals terminals as well as other developments.

At the meeting Mr Knight said Bournemouth hoped to benefit from deals arising from MAG’s purchase of London Stansted Airport.

The team are working closely with Dorset LEP (Local Enterprise Partnership) to encourage more overseas visitors to come visit the area, as the majority of passengers using the airport are still outbound to various destinations.

Mr Knight said the figures were pleasing, especially as smaller regional airports in particular continue to face challenging economic times.

“It also gives us a positive outlook for the next 12 months, when we hope to keep passenger numbers moving in the right direction”, he said.

“Looking ahead to summer, the aircraft flying out of Bournemouth are attracting good passenger load factors, with many airlines and tour operators reporting an increase in holiday bookings compared to last year.

“And from July, Aer Lingus will increase its Dublin service to six per week, enabling passengers to not only pre-clear US customs at Dublin, but also opening up connecting onward flights to the likes of New York, Boston and Chicago.

“Added to this we continue to look at new opportunities and aim to bring even more destinations in the coming year, which our new state-of-the-art and environmentally-friendly passenger facilities are well-placed to receive.”