BUSINESS leaders have expressed their surprise after Glasgow Airport Managing Director Amanda McMillan abruptly announced she is stepping down from the role after almost a decade in charge

Mrs McMillan, who is also chief executive officer of Aberdeen, Glasgow and Southampton (AGS) Airports, has said she plans to move with her family to Australia.

During her nine years in charge she has piloted the firm to new heights and oversaw a multi-million pound overhaul and expansion of the main terminal.

The mother-of-two, who was appointed managing director of Glasgow Airport in 2008, received an OBE (Order of the British Empire) in 2012 in recognition of her success in steering it through the worst downturn in aviation history.

She will stay in her post until next year, before handing over the reigns to her successor.

Last year the airport welcomed more than 8.7 million passengers passing through its doors in 2015, an increase of around one million additional passengers.

The air travel hub has seen five years of consecutive growth, and this year marks its 50th anniversary with the anticipation that the upward curve which begun under Mrs McMillan's time in charge will continue.

David Watt, Executive Director of the Institute of Directors in Scotland, said she had been highly regarded by her peers and that her departure would be keenly felt.

He said: "She's made a significant contribution to Glasgow and the wider business community and she's successfully driven forward business growth at the airport, which is the second largest in Scotland.

"She will be missed, not just by ourselves, but across the whole business community. She has been highly supportive of many projects, not least the Commonwealth Games in 2014.

"We wish her well in whatever she chooses to do next."

Liz Cameron OBE, Chief Executive of the Scottish Chambers of Commerce said: “Amanda has been an outstanding advocate for Glasgow and for Scotland and has shown tremendous leadership during her tenure at AGS Airports Ltd.

"Amanda leaves with a strong legacy, with passenger numbers growing, increased international connections and improved customer experience. I wish Amanda all the best in her future endeavours.”

The youngest of two children, Mrs McMillan grew up in Linwood, Renfrewshire, just a few miles from the airport, where her father worked in the town's former car factory and her mother juggled a full-time job as a wool buyer with running the family home.

She is married to Fraser, 45, a lawyer and partner at Pinsent Masons in Glasgow and the couple have two children, Sophie, 12, and Rory 10.

The 48-year-old has previously said that the people of Glasgow regard the airport like a public service, similar to a hospital or a school, and that she wanted to ensure it was something they could be proud of.

A qualified chartered accountant, she took over in at Glasgow Airport in 2008, and had to quickly learn the ropes. Of her settling in period, she said: "I was still very much of the mindset of going down the pub with your pals and saying: 'I don't understand why there isn't a route to Barbados from Glasgow because I know at least six people who want to go, I'm sure we could fill a plane.

"Then you come in and learn there is a huge piece of economic analysis to determine whether a route is viable or not. It's pretty scientific."

Announcing her departure yesterday, Mrs McMillan said: “I have thoroughly enjoyed leading AGS Airports. It is with mixed emotions that I am planning to move on, but this opportunity is one that comes at the right time for us as a family.

"I am immensely proud of the team at AGS which has delivered significant passenger growth, secured new carriers, built enviable destination lists and completed a series of first-class modernisation projects.”

AGS Airports Chairman Sir Peter Mason said: “On behalf of the AGS Board, I would like to convey our sincere thanks to Amanda for the outstanding job she has done in establishing the AGS Airports Ltd group since its creation in 2014.

“Through her distinctive brand of leadership, AGS has become one of the UK’s leading airport groups. During this period, our airports in Aberdeen, Glasgow and Southampton have benefited hugely from her drive and commitment to continually improve the customer experience for our growing number of passengers."