Doncaster airport could be as big as Leeds-Bradford within five years after a crucial link road opens, bosses claim.
Due to open in January, the FARRRS dual carriageway will instantly double the Finningley site’s half-hour drive time catchment to 1m people and put 6m people an hour away.
That is the same as its West Yorkshire rival which carried 3.3m passengers last year, compared to 725,000 in Doncaster.
Speaking at a dinner to celebrate the 10th anniversary of commercial flights, managing director Steve Gill said he had a five-year plan based on a transformation in passenger numbers after the road opens.
He added: “We have a plan and we are ambitious, there’s no reason why we can’t be at the same level as Leeds-Bradford. The airlines will look at us very differently once the road is open.”
Owners Peel have ploughed £150m into the site - and a further £12m into the £56m road - after agreeing to buy it from the Ministry of Defence in 1999. The first commercial flight was on April 28 2005.
The recession grounded expansion plans, but it has bounced back, announcing 10 new destinations in the last year including a re-start of flights to North America. Now, bosses are predicting 20 per cent annual growth.
Peel Airports chairman Robert Hough said: “We have spent 10 years laying the foundations, airports are a long-term investment and we shouldn’t be hurried by short-term fluctuations in the economy. We are committed, our vision at the start was big and it is no different today. There are few, if any, constraints to expansion and I believe we will play a big part in the Northern Powerhouse.”
Jill Carter, director of retail at TUI - owners of Thomson and First Choice - said they could see the airport’s potential in 2003 and signed a long-term agreement with Peel, which has just been renewed.
She added: “It’s important the airport has the backing of the business community for such a key region for us.”