Glasgow Airport celebrates 40 year anniversary

The man who steered Glasgow Airport towards success in the mid 1960s has made an emotional return to the airport after an absence of over 25 years.

Ron Read was managing director of Glasgow Airport when it was officially opened by Her Majesty The Queen forty years ago today.

Mr Read, now 86 and living in retirement in Spain, has returned to Glasgow to take part in the airport’s 40th anniversary celebrations. He will lay a time capsule at Glasgow Airport to mark the occasion, and will also attend a gala dinner at Glasgow City Chambers as the guest of honour.

Glasgow Airport was designed by Sir Basil Spence, one of Britain’s most distinguished architects. Built at a cost of over £4 million, the new airport was initially operated by Glasgow Corporation. Ownership was transferred to the British Airports Authority, now BAA, in 1975.

In its first year, Glasgow Airport handled 1.5 million passengers. Today, as Scotland’s busiest airport, Glasgow welcomes nearly nine million passengers a year, flying to and from almost 100 destinations worldwide.

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Ron Read was MD of Glasgow Airport until 1973, when he left to become Chief Executive of the British Aircraft Co., the pre-cursor to BAe. He last visited Glasgow Airport in 1981 to mark its then 15th anniversary.

Mr Read said: “I spent some of my happiest years as managing director of Glasgow Airport. It was a very exciting time. We exceeded all the expectations in terms of the numbers of passengers we carried in the first year. There had been a forecast of around a million. In fact, it turned out to be 1.5 million.

“We developed a commercial policy of giving airlines starting scheduled services to new foreign destinations a 50% discount for the first year. What’s more we made a profit. Airports weren’t supposed to do that in those days.”

Airport staff, past and present, will join Mr Read to mark the airport’s anniversary with the laying of a time capsule. Pupils from Blairdardie Primary School in Glasgow and St Margaret’s Primary in Johnstone also attended the ceremony. Both schools have contributed items for the time capsule. 

Councillor Steven Purcell, the Leader of Glasgow City Council, said: “In the last 40 years, Glasgow has moved from its industrial past, transforming into a vibrant, modern and cosmopolitan city. Glasgow Airport is an integral part of our economic success story, providing the physical links necessary to increase productivity and open our city to the world.

“In the next 40 years the airport will continue to play a major role in the continued success of the city economy, bringing more jobs and opportunity for all.”

Renfrewshire Council Leader Jim Harkins said:  “Glasgow Airport is a major economic asset not only for Renfrewshire but also for the wider Scottish economy.  Over the years, Renfrewshire Council, as the host authority for the airport, has worked closely with the airport to promote development which has brought jobs and boosted the broader economy. There are exciting times ahead with the growth of the airport and the rail link and we look forward to playing our part in that success.  I would like to congratulate the airport on this important anniversary.”

Scott Taylor, Chief Executive of Glasgow City Marketing Bureau, said: “Glasgow Airport has been a phenomenal success story over the last 40 years, and more especially in the last 10 years with BAA’s very obvious commitment to developing Glasgow as Scotland’s long haul international airport. There has also been significant investment made in the airport’s infrastructure, and Glasgow City Marketing Bureau has been pleased to work with the airport in encouraging and sustaining new routes to the city.”       

MPs from across the UK have also congratulated Glasgow Airport on its anniversary. A motion tabled by Paisley and Renfrewshire North MP Jim Sheridan has drawn support from MPs of all parties.

Alan Barr, managing director of Glasgow Airport, said: “We are proud of the contribution we have made to the growth of tourism in Glasgow and the west of Scotland, and to the economic regeneration of the region.

“The opening of Glasgow Airport marked the start of a revolution in air travel in Scotland, a revolution that has brought Scotland closer to the rest of the world, opened up access to new business markets, and afforded millions of Scots the opportunity to travel. I’m convinced the next forty years will be equally exciting.”
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