Southampton airport has officially opened the 164-metre extension to its existing runway, which it says will allow it to attract more airlines and “help deliver new routes and services for the people of Southampton and the wider region”.

Work began to lay the 164-metre extension to the northern end of the airport’s runway in March of this year, and the extension became operational in August.

This week’s official opening ceremony was attended by Aviation Minister Baroness Vere, and included a take-off of a World War II Spitfire from the runway extension.

Permission to extend the runway was originally granted by Eastleigh Borough Council in 2021, but local opposition led to the decision going to the Court of Appeal, where it was upheld in August 2022.

Southampton airport said that the £17 million investment would “help deliver improved connectivity and unlock opportunities for business and leisure travel to thrive in the area, while guaranteeing the airport’s viability for the future”.

At present the airport has just a handful of operators including Aer Lingus, Aurigny, Blue Islands, Eastern Airways, easyJet, KLM and Loganair.

Over the last few summers British Airways has also operated seasonal flights from the airport to destinations including Alicante, Bergerac, Chambéry, Dublin, Edinburgh, Faro, Limoges, Málaga and Palma de Mallorca.

Baroness Vere said that the extension would help deliver 2,000 new jobs, while the airport’s operations director Steve Szalay commented:

“We would like to thank everyone who has supported Southampton Airport’s runway extension over the last few years, from members of the public to the local business community.

“The extension is a critical part of our future and will help enhance the region’s connectivity, safeguard the airport’s future and help deliver social and economic benefits to Eastleigh, Southampton and the wider region.”