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Concerns raised over Prestwick Airport chiefs’ taxpayer-funded trips

Prestwick Airport
Prestwick Airport (Jeff J Mitchell / Getty Images)

BOSSES at the loss-making Prestwick Airport have attended 13 airline trade shows around the world without attracting any new business, it can be revealed.

The taxpayer-owned airport will be at a conference in China this month but critics have questioned the trips given Ryanair is the Ayrshire airport’s only commercial carrier.

The events are aimed at attracting new carriers but Prestwick has failed to do that in 13 attempts over five years in locations such as Las Vegas, South Africa and Barcelona.

Glasgow Prestwick, which was bought by the Scottish Government for £1 in 2013, owes the taxpayer around £46 million in loans.

Scottish Labour transport spokesman Colin Smyth said: “It should be a matter of concern that no new routes have been secured by these conferences.”

A Sunday Post analysis shows executives attended 13 such events since 2013, including four for “world routes” and one for Asia routes.

Prestwick’s former commercial officer Graeme Sweenie

Industry experts said an airport such as Prestwick would realistically only meet low-cost carriers from Europe at the events so the cost of trips in comparison to the number of meetings is likely to be high.

We previously revealed how Prestwick’s ex-commercial officer Graeme Sweenie claimed a £1,171 five-night stay in Las Vegas during a conference on new routes in 2013.

Meanwhile, documents released under freedom of information laws show HR director Sonia Rafferty won at the “Transport News, Women in Transport Awards 2017” – but the airport had to foot some of the costs.

A total of £350.15 was spent on an advert with the trade title as well as the “winner’s plaque and carriage”.

Elsewhere, papers show interim chief executive Stewart Adams has his expenses for driving to work and staying in accommodation near the airport met by the taxpayer.

Since 2013 Prestwick’s passenger numbers have declined while its government loans have increased.Prestwick, which announced a pre-tax loss of £8.6 million in December, last night defended attending the conferences. A spokeswoman said the events were “an efficient and cost-effective way of engaging with airlines as we aim to generate important new routes”.

She added: “We already have face-to-face meetings with major carriers confirmed for the World Routes conference in September.

“In the last six years we have attended 13 conferences, averaging just over two per annum and this year anticipate our total spend to attend three major international sales conventions will be £7,628 which includes £5,042 in fixed delegate costs and £2,586 in travel, accommodation and subsistence for our single representative.”

She said Mr Adams’s expenses reflect the fact his family is based in Aberdeen.