A public consultation seeking views on the potential impact of altering Edinburgh airport flight paths to cope with increased traffic has been started.

The plans would allow for “maximum operational benefits and to minimise community impact,” Scotland’s busiest airport claims.

The airport argues that its airspace was designed in the 1970s when it handled around 1 million passengers per year – compared with more than 11 million last year.

“With the huge growth of air travel we now must modernise our airspace,” the airport said.

“Regulations that cover modernising airspace means we are obliged to engage in an Airspace Change Programme (ACP).

“This ACP involves a two stage consultation process; firstly, launching today, and for 14 weeks up to September 12 we will aim to gather views from the public.

“The results of this initial consultation will help guide the design and development of potential future flight path options which will be presented in a second consultation stage which is scheduled to commence on December 16.”

Chief executive, Gordon Dewar, said: “Our international route network has grown to become the envy of many similar sized European airports. The strong levels of growth we have experienced since 2013 resulted in the airport handling over 11.1 million passengers last year.

“However, this constant growth in passenger numbers presents us with challenges.

“We need to modernise and improve Edinburgh airport in a way that maximises the benefits across Scotland and minimises the impact on local communities.

“The objective of the first stage of the consultation is to gain responses from the public that will help us inform the design of any potential future flight paths. We want everyone to know they have the opportunity to have their say on the positioning of potential future flight path changes.

“Over the coming days, weeks and months our initial consultation will involve a leaflet drop to over 640,000 doors, will be highlighted via our vast social media reach, targeted through advertising to a TV audience of at least 900,000 as well as an outdoor advertising campaign in arterial routes across Edinburgh and in national and local newspapers adverts.

“We’ll also be engaging with community groups to help us have discussions in local communities.”

He added: “This time last year we were – justifiably in some cases – we were criticised for not engaging thoroughly enough with our neighbouring communities before running a flight path trial.

“We’ve learned our lessons and this time round will do all that we reasonably can to ensure that everyone has their say on the future growth of Edinburgh airport.”

Helena Paul, of the campaign group Edinburgh Airport Watch, told BBC Radio Scotland she viewed the proposed changes with “absolute horror”.

She said: “I wouldn’t wish the noise levels that we’re now suffering on anyone.

“I was woken again at six o’clock this morning by a plane going over. The last plane went over about quarter to 12 last night. I wouldn’t wish that on any community.

“Edinburgh airport has had established flight routes for 40 years…they do not need to change their flight paths to be able to increase their capacity.”