The British Airports Authority (BAA) has effectively ended hopes of a new runway at Edinburgh Airport for the next thirty years. The aviation firm cited a recent slump in customers as the impetus for the move, believing that an expected hike in passenger numbers to 13m per year will now take almost a decade, rather than the original estimate of three years. Kevin Brown, Edinburgh Airport’s managing director, said that the BAA was now “grounded in the reality” of post-recession Scotland.
Unveiled in 2005, Edinburgh’s ‘master plan’ predicted a £1bn expansion that would double the size of the hub’s physical presence before 2030. Every airport structure, from terminal buildings and car parks, to departure lounges and cargo areas, was set for an overhaul to handle a “surge” in passengers and aeroplanes. The Scottish hub was aiming very high – 18m new travellers in three decades, more than treble the number of regular visitors in 2005.
However, when the recession dawned a few years later, Edinburgh Airport, much like the rest of the country’s businesses, found itself at the mercy of customers’ newfound frugality. The home holiday, or ‘staycation,’ was crowned king, and the sale of flights and package breaks quickly fell away. By the end of last year, Edinburgh had lost 5% of its annual passengers, down from 9m in 2009, to 8.6m in December 2010.
The master plan had become a pipe dream, and a revision was commissioned in January 2011. Officials now say that smaller projects will take priority, such as improvements to transfer facilities, and the construction of new aircraft stands and hangars. The overall size of the airport, contrary to 2005 projections, will not change, but the hub remains determined to boost both passenger numbers and aircraft movements within the next decade, to 12.3m travellers and 141,300 flights, respectively.
Bosses at Edinburgh may be hoping that a sufficiently large increase in passengers will force the BAA to table a new runway proposal before 2040. However, airport boss, Kevin Brown, intimated that consolidation and "waiting it out" would come before Edinburgh invests seriously in its expansion plans, “(the airport) is keen to capitalise on the opportunities that will arise when our economy begins to grow again.”
The master plan will now enter a 14-week consultation phase, which will allow the BAA to refine its plans and liaise with the public, before the report is finalised.