Airport bosses in the north and north-east were urged yesterday to start drawing up plans for flights to new destinations amid hopes they can win Treasury support.
Eight airports in the Highlands and islands will qualify for a new funding scheme unveiled in this week’s Budget.
The Press and Journal has also learned Aberdeen International Airport will be eligible to bid for the money.
Danny Alexander, Inverness MP and chief secretary to the Treasury, said yesterday airport chiefs should be coming forward with proposals for services to destinations at home and abroad.
He also revealed he would seek to expand the £10million fund if viable proposals were made.
Explaining the Budget move, the Liberal Democrat said: “Often the difficult phase of a new route is that first year or two when passengers are still building up.
“There are a lot of places that would like to offer better connections to new markets – to India, to China and so on – and they think that once those routes are established they could really be a thriving part of the economy, but it’s getting them going that’s difficult.
“It’s for airlines and airports to come forward with suggestions. They still have to be routes that they think will be economically viable in the medium term.
“It doesn’t just mean you can try any old route. You still have to work to develop those routes.
“It’s not for me to specify, but there’s no restriction in terms of whether it’s domestic or international. Both sorts of connections could be eligible.”
Asked if £10million was sufficient, Mr Alexander said: “I think it’s a substantial sum.”
A spokeswoman for Aberdeen Airport said: “We look forward to hearing some more of the detail about the fund and having dialogue about applying it to some of the work that we are doing in Aberdeen.”
Inglis Lyon, managing director of Highlands and Islands Airports Limited, said: “We welcome the prospect of new start-up funding for airlines to encourage route development from regional airports such as Inverness and Dundee.
“Past experience has shown that such a fund can help to secure new routes, particularly in areas like the Highlands which face strong competition from larger cities and which, although on the radar of new airlines, usually require additional support to make them viable over the long term.”