Southampton airport has been given permission to extend its runway, allowing carriers like Tui and easyJet to operate there.
Plans for the 164-metre extension were approved after a 19-hour debate by local councillors. They were granted with conditions that passenger numbers can only increase to three million from pre-Covid levels of two million and with noise restrictions.
The airport had argued it was unviable without the extension. In a campaign video, operations director Steve Szalay said the extension was “the only way for Southampton to remain a viable regional airport” following the collapse of Flybe, which provided 80% of its business.
The 164-metre extension will lie within the existing boundary and will allow Boeing 737s and Airbus A320s – typically used by Ryanair, easyJet and Tui, to operate with full payloads.
Flybe had operated mainly with small propellor aircraft, while British Airways had planned to operate small jets from Southampton this summer, but only on weekends.
Szalay said Southamption had one of the UK’s shortest runways meaning “there is no significant airline in the market that we can accommodate without an extension”.
“As a result, we are currently a failing business.”
“This will make us a viable airport again,” he said. “Covid has hit us hard, but the root of the problem is the loss of Flybe and without new airlines, we will not recover.”