Edinburgh-Kent service to begin

Residents of Manston, Kent, have cause for celebration this week, after Flybe announced the creation of a new route between Edinburgh and Kent airports. The route, which is due to begin on the 27 May, is the first connection of its kind for more than five years.

Kent Manston Airport might not seem like the most obvious place to visit, but the hub’s proximity to central London, as well as to Heathrow, Gatwick, and London City airports, makes it an ideal destination for Scottish executives who have business in the southeast. Kent Airport is also an hour’s drive from the Channel Tunnel.

Infratil, the owner of Kent Airport, claims that Flybe’s new route will create up to 20 jobs, and help bolster links with more than 100 businesses in the Manston area. The flight departs every weekday morning, leaving Edinburgh at 10.50 and returning from Kent at 12.45. A similar service operates on Saturday.

A new Bombardier Q400 will operate the service, which is expected to run until the end of October. The Q400 is alleged to be the most hi-tech propeller aircraft in the world, and one of the cheapest to operate. Flybe has 58 Q400 planes in its fleet, with a further eight on order from Bombardier.

Manston boss, Marta Easton, was optimistic for the tiny Kent airport – ‘The team is very excited about the return of daily flights to Edinburgh. We are confident that our passengers will receive great customer service on a par with – if not better than – any other regional airport.’

Flybe has also reinstated flights from Edinburgh Airport to Bergerac and Rennes in France. Kent Airport offers routes to Jersey, and to several destinations in Eastern Europe.

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Volcano causes ‘massive disruption’

Eyjafjallajokull or simply, Eyjafjoll, is probably the most famous lump of rock in the world right now, having decimated the European aviation industry with thick clouds of volcanic ash and dust.

The volcano, which lies on a glaciated mountain range in southern Iceland, has been erupting intermittently since the middle of March, but the crater remained relatively unknown until the 14th April, when the wind carried the mountain’s emissions south towards Britain and northwestern Europe.

Since then, an estimated 150,000 British nationals have been stranded abroad, 70,000 of whom are in the Americas, as airlines across the continent were forced to cancel all scheduled and charter flights. Eyjafjoll’s ash cloud now reaches deep into Russia, after five days of violent eruptions.

Whilst the EU organises an emergency meeting, Gordon Brown has brokered a deal with the Spanish Prime Minister, Jose Zapatero, to allow planes carrying British citizens to land at the country’s airports. Travellers will then be escorted to three Royal Navy warships, including HMS Ark Royal, and returned to England.

Eyjafjoll’s eruptions have shown signs of weakening over the past few hours, but the Met Office continues to warn of southerly winds blowing dust over the country. Test flights in the south of England have arrived safely, however, prompting anger at National Air Traffic Services (NATS), which continues to impose a no-fly zone over the UK.

Up to 63,000 flights have been axed since Thursday, affecting 7m passengers. Airline bosses have warned that the bar on flights is costing the industry £130m a day, a severe blow for struggling carriers such as British Airways.

If you are concerned about your flight, please contact your airline in the first instance.

Three new Ryanair flights from Edinburgh

is increasing its presence at Edinburgh Airport by introducing three new flights. From May 2010, passengers will now be able to choose to travel to Faro in Portugal, Marrakesh in Morocco and Paris when they jet away on holiday from the Scottish transport hub.

Ryanair currently operates 35 routes from Edinburgh Airport, so the addition of the three new routes will send its total number up to 38. This is some increase on the situation only a few years ago: back in 2007 it was only operating two routes from the airport.

As well as the extra three routes, Ryanair is also going to introduce extra flights on 11 more of its existing routes. As a result of the extra flights and the extra routes, Ryanair’s traffic at the airport is soon expected to reach the 2.5 million-per-year mark. This means that Ryanair will be carrying a quarter of the total number of passengers passing through the airport.

The new route to Marrakesh is especially important for both Ryanair and Edinburgh Airport because it is the first direct flight to the Moroccan city to operate out of Scotland. Now travellers could find themselves going from the heart of Scotland to the Sahara desert in a matter of hours.

Morocco is sure to prove a popular destination because it is not much further to travel than Spain but provides travellers with a taste of Africa that is quite different from anything found in Europe.

The managing director of Edinburgh Airport, Gordon Dewar, said that they were “delighted” Ryanair had chosen them for the expansion, adding that the new routes and increased flight frequency make Edinburgh “better connected than ever before."

Budget boost for Edinburgh

Irish airline, Ryanair, has added three new routes to its Edinburgh schedules – Marrakech, in Morocco, Faro in Portugal, and Paris, France. The airline now operates 38 routes out of Edinburgh.

Last year, Ryanair axed flights at a number of UK airports, including Robin Hood and Birmingham, and moved its planes to Edinburgh, where fourteen new flights helped elevate the airport above its closest rival, Glasgow.

Edinburgh posted an impressive 5.6% rise in passenger numbers in September 2009, and a further 0.6% boost at the end of the year, despite being battered by appalling weather.

Ryanair boss, Stephen McNamara, issued a template statement, and then extended the airline’s never-ending sale for another week. Edinburgh boss, Gordon Dewar, was delighted with the news, however:

“We have managed to replace the seats lost by the collapse of Flyglobespan late last year. The Marrakech route is particularly exciting as it’s the first link from Scotland to this burgeoning tourist destination.”

The new routes completed a bumper week for Edinburgh, coming just days after an English developer announced plans to build two hotels near the airport, capable of housing 350 guests between them.

Located opposite the main control tower, the two hotels will help alleviate pressure on the nearby Hilton Hotel, which recently finished building forty extra rooms. Local accommodation will be expected to cope with an explosion in passenger numbers over the coming year.

Up to 500 jobs will be created by the hotel, including 325 construction positions. A completion date has yet to be agreed upon.

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Edinburgh Airport gets rid of security chief

The security chief position has been axed at Edinburgh Airport, with the terminal manager set to take over all security operations from now on. This has led security experts to criticise the move, and even the Prime Minister has become involved by saying that he will look into the decision.

Over 9 million passengers use Edinburgh Airport every year, and with the threat of international terrorism increasing across the world, demonstrated by the recent Christmas Day bomb alert in Detroit, it seems sensible that the major airports have dedicated security personnel in charge. However, when Alistair Bonthron leaves the post the security team is to merge with the terminal team.

Gordon Brown said that BAA had to take its responsibilities seriously when it came to security. He was responding to the Liberal Democrat MP, John Barrett, who brought up his concerns with the Prime Minister. Brown said that it is “a matter to be worked out but I shall obviously look into the case.”

A spokeswoman for BAA said that the same arrangement was in place at Glasgow Airport and reiterated that safety and security were a priority at all BAA Airports. The managing director of the airport, Gordon Dewar, also confirmed that security is a “foremost priority” and highlighted the tens of millions of pounds spent on new security facilities and staff training at Edinburgh Airport over recent years.

However, the former head of security for BAA, Norman Shanks, said that the decision seemed “odd”, adding that safeguards would need to be put in place to prevent the decision leading to any lack of security.

Holidaymakers stranded as Flyglobespan goes bust

Last week thousands of holidaymakers woke to find that their carrier, Flyglobespan, Scotland’s biggest airline, had gone bust. The airline had denied earlier in the week that liquidation was on the cards, saying that Jersey company, Halcyon Investments, were about to offer a major funding package.

Like other airlines, Flyglobespan had been hit by the recession, making a loss of £19 million in 2007 – 2008 although a profit of £1.2 million for 2008 – 2009 had seemed to herald better times. Spiralling fuel costs and plummeting passenger numbers though were obviously too great an impediment to recovery. Not only were 5000 holidaymakers stranded abroad and 117,000 prospective holidaymakers facing disappointment, but 800 staff were left facing Christmas without a job. Apart from a small nucleus who will be employed to oversee the winding up of the company, all other staff members will be made redundant.

Ryanair and Easyjet were offering to fly stranded passengers home where routes overlap for fares between £60 and £89. Apart from flying to Mediterranean resorts, the airline also operated routes to Florida and Egypt.

Passengers who booked using a credit card or through an ATOL bonded agent should get their money back eventually but there are tens of thousands who had holidays booked who will lose their money, having used debit cards or booked flights only through the website. News was breaking at the weekend that the airline had been badly let down by the credit card handling agency, E-Clear, said to owe Flyglobespan £34 million. If even part of this sum had been in the airline’s bank account the crisis could have been averted, according to the Finance Minister.

Phantom spider halts BA flight

Giant spiders found yet another way to terrorise British travellers last week – they learnt to fly.

In the 1950’s, low budget horror movies were a staple of Hollywood cinema, often starring unknown actors and teary-eyed damsels, battling to save the earth from giant monsters, killer robots, and green aliens with ray guns.

The genre reached a crescendo in the sixties but unusual creatures continue to grace our screens, stomping all over New York, or emerging from a tin box on Horsell Common, tentacles flapping in the breeze.

Of course, there’s no such thing as the bogeyman, as the mantra goes. The monsters we see on TV every Saturday night are stuntmen in rubber suits, trying to catch a break as a serious actor, the aliens are puppets, clever robots on thin pieces of wire, and creepy-crawlies cannot fly.

Or can they?

A British Airways (BA) passenger got the shock of his life last week, when a real life movie monster marched between his legs – a giant tarantula, catching an early morning flight from London to Edinburgh.

Specialist bug zappers were called in from Gatwick Airport to deal with the stowaway spider, but an exhaustive search has since revealed no trace of the arachnid. Officials have conceded that the tarantula could still be aboard the aircraft, hiding.

“It is unusual for something like this to be found on a domestic service, but an exhaustive search of the aircraft would probably involve stripping it to its components." BA offered few condolences to travelling arachnophobes.

Despite their fearsome reputation, tarantulas are not dangerous to humans, although many species possess a nasty bite. Officials have speculated that the eight-legged beastie might have arrived on a cargo shipment, and simply caught the wrong plane home.

3 months of delays for immigrants at Edinburgh

Foreign arrivals at Edinburgh Airport are likely to see some long delays over the next few months as the immigrations hall has started to undergo huge renovations. The hall will be enlarged by 25%, and the works are likely to seriously affect millions of foreign travellers passing through the airport.

Edinburgh is one of the busiest airports in the UK, and currently sees flights arriving from 25 countries. The majority of these are from Ireland, Germany, France and Spain.

9 million passengers passed through the airport last year, and 40% of those were international travellers. The number of overseas passengers passing through the airport has tripled over the last decade, and is certain to expand even further following the renovations to the immigrations hall.

The rise in international passengers has been rapid. In 1999, 700,000 international passengers passed through the airport each year. In the last few years this figure has been more like 2 million a year, or about 10,000 per day. This huge rise was not expected, and it is this that has led to the need for the increase in the size of the immigrations hall.

Gordon Dewar, the managing director of Edinburgh Airport, apologised in advance for the problems that it would cause to numerous journeys. He explained that, with a project of such a size, there were certain to be problems that could not be prevented. He confirmed that the airport is “working closely with the UK Border Agency, airlines and others” in a bid to keep disruption to a minimum.

The new immigration hall will use advanced technology to provide improved security, such as facial recognition software. The redesign will cost in the region of £2 million.

Edinburgh performs well as other Scottish airports flounder

Edinburgh Airport has been bucking the trend to show increased passenger numbers during July. This is the fourth consecutive month that numbers have been rising, showing how popular the airport continues to be compared to its competition. It was, however, a different story for Aberdeen and Glasgow airports, both of which saw traffic fall sharply.

Whereas Aberdeen saw a 9% drop in passenger numbers when compared to the same time last year, and Glasgow witnessed a 12.9% fall, Edinburgh went against the grain to see a 5.6% rise.

Overall, BAA’s airports witnessed a 4.6% drop in passenger numbers, with just over 2 million people using the airports. However, a spokesman for BAA said that it still represented a “substantial number of travellers”.

BAA Scotland also announced that, despite the falls across the board, there were now signs of stabilisation, as July’s drop was the smallest such drop since January.

The recession has had a huge effect on the troubled aviation industry, which has seen passenger numbers drop significantly as people try to save money on their holidays. But it seemed that some people were simply not willing to give up their annual holiday away in the sun, which could account for the latest figures.

Edinburgh’s performance was one of the best in the country, with Heathrow only posting a 0.9% growth during July and Stansted and Gatwick also posting falls. Overall, passenger numbers across all BAA airports were down 2.4% compared to last year.

The deputy chief executive at Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce, Graham Birse, was pleased with the figures, stating that any rumours of problems within the financial sector of the city had been “grossly exaggerated”.

"Dramatic" increase in winter flights

Michael O’Leary has found a friend in Edinburgh Airport as his budget airline, Ryanair, prepares to expand its operations at the Scottish facility.

The additional routes will augment Ryanair’s current roster with eight others, including winter flights to Barcelona in Spain, Munich in Germany, Oslo in Norway and Gdańsk in Poland.

Edinburgh and Ryanair have enjoyed a symbiotic relationship for a number of years, but the recent expansion marks a significant 42% increase in flights over the same period last year, when the airline offered just nine destinations.

Company representative Stephen McNamara hailed a “dramatic increase” in flights. The airline has also added routes to airports in Dusseldorf in Germany and Madrid in Spain.

Ryanair has been busy reshuffling its UK operations, drawing criticism from airport bosses and forcing some customers to alter their holiday plans. Earlier in the week, the airline moved many of its planes away from Manchester Airport, blaming excessive landing fees for its decision.

Many of Manchester’s planes are now idling on the apron at Edinburgh.

In celebration of the new routes, Ryanair is helping winter passengers "beat the recession” by offering millions of 99p seats. Add the obligatory taxes, however, and two adults flying from Edinburgh to Girona, Barcelona and back can expect to pay around £88, excluding baggage and handling fees (call it £110, with one suitcase).

The new routes come into effect on the 30th October (Lanzarote), 31st October (Tenerife), 3rd November (Barcelona, Brussels, Gdańsk) and the 4th November 2009 (Gran Canaria, Munich, Oslo).