Bournemouth airport bought by Rigby Group as 'mini-conglomerate's' aviation ambitions take off

Alan Tovey
Bournemouth airport has been acquired by Rigby Group

Bournemouth airport has been acquired by Rigby Group, as the privately held business steps up its plans to grow its aviation interests and become what it calls a “significant player” in the “vital regional airports” market.

Rigby Group, which was set up by technology entrepreneur Sir Peter Rigby and is now one of the UK’s largest private companies, is adding the Doreset airport to its portfolio of Norwich, Exeter, and Coventry airports. Rigby Group also operates Solent, City of Derry and Blackpool airports.  

The deal, under which Rigby will acquire the asset from Manchester Airports Group for an undisclosed sum, is part of Rigby’s plan to build a network of passenger and cargo airports across southern England which offer a viable alternative to Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted and Luton.

Group chairman Sir Peter said: “The acquisition is an important landmark in our strategy to create a robust and credible group of regional airport assets and services across the UK.

“Not only does it expand our catchment to include the major regions of southern England, but also focuses operations on a core market poorly serviced by the major aviation players.”

Sir Peter Rigby is expanding his diverse group's interests Credit: Geoff Pugh

Rigby Group, which has interests in aviation services including air ambulances, property, technology and hotels, will add Bournmouth to the company through its Regional and City Airports arm (RCA).

Bournemouth airport currently offers flights to 22 destinations across Europe, with 700,000 passengers using the airport in 2016. A base for Ryanair and TUI, it supports 900 jobs and contributes  £24million to the local economy.

Under the RCA umbrella, the company said it aims to raise both passenger and cargo traffic through Bournemouth airport. The RCA group recently recorded its best ever year, handling 1.7m  passengers and 189,000 flight movements.

Day-to-day management of Bournemouth’s adjacent 200-acre business park will be handled by Rigby Group’s property management division.

Steve Rigby, chief operating officer of Rigby Group, called Bournemouth airport “well-run and robust” but “ripe for growth”.

He added: “We’re here to do business. Growing demand for both UK and international flights in nearby Southampton offers significant scope to increase passenger numbers, while the site’s potential as a regional business hub also represents a clear opportunity for expansion.”

Charlie Cornish, chief executive of Manchester Airports, added: “Bournemouth airport and its people have been part of our company for a long time. RCA has a detailed integration plan in place to ensure a seamless transition of ownership and operations at Bournemouth which will maintain business as usual for passengers and customers.”

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