LIVERPOOL John Lennon Airports (JLA) loss of business to nearby rival Manchester may be a blessing in disguise, it claims.
The thinking is that it may lead to a re-evaluation of JLA by carriers who viewed it as a no-frills or nothing operation.
Recent figures put JLA on course to lose more than 700,000 passengers from 2011s 5.3m level as Ryanair cuts routes and Easyjet targets Manchester for expansion.
But JLA operations director Paul Staples said this could lead to a back to the future return to charter flights, when the airport was a key base for charter operation Direct Holidays.
He said: We would like to change our mix. We were 97% low-cost last year. Similar airports like Bristol and Newcastle have a better mix of charters.
We have spoken to airlines about that. Easyjet and Ryanair services dropping may not be a bad thing. It may change other airlines perceptions of us.
JLA has funded a £12m revamp of its security and retail areas and he added: We are showing a number of airlines around who havent been with us for a while and they say they cant believe how much it has improved.
Charters, such as all-inclusive packages, are growing in popularity even Easyjet is developing a charter offer and JLA says passenger surveys show many interested in charters would like to use the local airport.
Meanwhile, JLA is targeting retail to counter falling passenger numbers.
The airport takes a percentage of tenants turnover and Mr Staples said JLAs spend-per-head is better than high street levels, but he acknowledges conditions have to be right, which is why the airport has spent an extra £200,000 on cutting time passengers spend in security from 24 minutes to 10, leading to more shopping time and less stressful customers.
The new World Duty Free store has been a hit with passengers, particularly high-value goods such as designer perfumes.
But Mr Staples said: The spend-per-head doesnt bridge the gap in lost passengers. But if the spend-per-head hadnt gone up the gap would have been further.
A recent poll of almost 1,700 passengers found that 96.2% would recommend JLA to others, while 93.7% were satisfied with JLA overall, but he is constantly attempting to improve services across the board.
He said JLAs departure gates are in need of refurbishment, as is the arrivals area, and some washrooms will be improved, but he admitted: There are still problems with staff attitudes.
The vast majority of our staff are not employed by the airport so we want a standard that all contractors must adhere to.
On a more positive note he said new security provider Securitas is performing better than previous incumbent G4S, and a new cleaning contractor will start in November which allows the airport to monitor cleanliness constantly throughout the day.
Turnaround times for flights, a staple requirement for budget airlines, are also in the top two in Europe. Mr Staples said: I cant praise the two handling agents, Smart and Servisair, enough.
But, ultimately, JLAs challenge remains to regain passenger growth.
The airport has flagged up with airlines what it considers is untapped potential in Germany and Scandinavia.
But its key aim, to hit both the business and leisure markets, is a hub operation to link with other international airports like Amsterdam, Paris or Heathrow to drive growth once more.