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).

Edinburgh ranked top of RDC review

RDC Aviation, a consultancy firm for the air transport industry, has declared Edinburgh International the best performing airport in the UK, despite a ten percent drop in passenger numbers.

The airport, which recently celebrated its busiest day ever, recorded an exponential rise in cargo tonnage, bucking a trend that saw commercial traffic drop by 25% throughout the rest of the UK.

Flights from Bournemouth and Cardiff helped boost domestic arrivals at Edinburgh, but the Scottish facility continued to fall to a record low of nine million annual customers – a drop of 100,000, the lowest of all UK airports.

London Stansted, East Midlands, and Robin Hood airports all saw passenger numbers plummet during 2008. Even London Heathrow, the third busiest airport in the world, lost a full one percent of its sixty-eight million customers.

With the recession in retreat, an estimated £250m has been earmarked for the re-development of many of Edinburgh’s key facilities. A new departure lounge – costing around £40m – is due to be completed in 2010. A project to resurface the main runway was also completed in November 2008.

Climate Camp Scotland, an environmental pressure group, has taken umbrage over the extension plans, and threatened to raid Edinburgh Airport as part of a wider campaign of industrial sabotage.

The group went on to destroy a key conveyor belt at a nearby Scottish Coal facility, interrupting operations, and putting 30,000 coal trucks back on the road. Diarmaid Lynch, a spokesperson for the group, described the attack as “fantastic.”

Despite the threats, however, Edinburgh airport was eventually spared the group’s brand of vigilante justice.

Thousands evacuated at Edinburgh airport after suspicious baggage found in toilets

If you were the absent minded person guilty of leaving a piece of luggage unattended in the ladies’ toilets at Edinburgh airport last week, you may well want to think twice before confessing to the fact.

The said suitcase was the cause of a full security alert which led to the check-in and security areas being closed, flights being seriously delayed and thousands of passengers being evacuated from the terminal building, whilst a bomb disposal team blew up the case which was discovered to have nothing suspicious inside it.

The evacuation happened last Monday afternoon (6 July 2009) just after the Easyjet flight to Amsterdam had taken off. By 5pm the airport had reopened although passengers were warned to expect delays whilst the backlog of flights was dealt with. Amongst those facing serious delays were the Heart of Midlothian football team, due to fly out to Germany for training and a friendly match.

Only last month there were other dramatic scenes at the airport when a Loganair flight to the Isle of Man had to be abandoned and passengers evacuated from the aircraft, after smoke was seen coming from one of the engines, just minutes before the plane was due to take off.

This followed a previous incident when an Air France aircraft experienced problems on the runway which, given the recent Air France tragedy over the Atlantic which killed 228 people, left passengers on the Edinburgh flight badly shaken.

Edinburgh airport has recently recorded its busiest ever day with 35,899 passengers passing through the airport.

New terminal for Edinburgh

Scotland’s busiest airport, Edinburgh, has been enjoying something of a boom with passenger numbers having doubled over the last ten years to just under nine million in 2008. New plans have now been unveiled for the airport, with owners, BAA, announcing that they will be investing forty million pounds to make Edinburgh airport one of the most modern in the whole of Europe. The new terminal along with bars, restaurants, and shops, will be able to support thirteen million passengers a year.

Edinburgh airport’s managing director, Gordon Dewar, is delighted and sees the proposed investment as a real “vote of confidence”. He said that the plans are good for Edinburgh and for Scotland as a whole. Although nowhere is immune to the current recession facing the country and, in particular, the aviation industry, Mr Dewar believes that it is imperative to “look to the long term and build for the future”. Edinburgh airport helps sustain Scotland’s tourist industry and the thousands of jobs which go with it.

The city council also greeted the news enthusiastically, with its leader, Jenny Dawe, stressing that this sort of investment in Scotland’s infrastructure is vital for the country to “remain competitive in the global marketplace”.

The development will take two years to complete and it is hoped that disruption to passengers can be kept to a minimum, with a phased basis being utilised, to ensure that the main departure lounge can be kept open throughout with sufficient access to the departure gates. A new security area will form part of the new terminal with fourteen new x-ray machines being introduced.

Edinburgh runway finished ahead of schedule

Last week, the busiest airport in Scotland announced some very impressive news: Edinburgh Airport’s main runway has been resurfaced and generally upgraded ahead of schedule. The project, which cost millions of pounds to complete, began earlier this year in April and was due to be completed at the end of this month. However, the project ran so smoothly that its final stages were completed last week.

The main runway at the popular airport handles approximately 115,000 flights each year and it has been revamped for the first time since the early 1990s. Workers employed by the project were kept extremely busy during the long summer and autumn nights, laying thousands of tonnes of asphalt, with flights being relocated to the second runway at the airport during this time.

As well as laying the asphalt, workers were responsible for replacing over one thousand lights on the runway. These improvements will extend the life of the runway for another fifteen or so years. The managing director of the airport, Gordon Dewar, believes that the “complex and challenging project” has been a success and he revealed his delight at the work being completed “on time and on budget”.

Dewar was also keen to thank the residents of south and west Edinburgh for their patience. The flights which were switched to the second runway resulted in different areas of the city being affected by annoying aircraft noise. Although the airport made “every effort to minimise disruption”, he was aware of the potential for annoyance and thanked the residents for their understanding.

Edinburgh revenues rise despite credit crunch

Since the start of the credit crunch, the bad news and negative announcements have seemed endless. However, last week, Edinburgh Airport had good reason to be positive despite the increasing financial gloom and uncertainty, as it announced that revenues at the airport have continued to increase over recent months. BAA, the major airport operator, revealed that income resulting from aeronautical charges at the Scottish airport increased by approximately two per cent in the nine months to the end of September.

BAA was able to reveal this good news despite passenger numbers declining drastically recently, with consumers feeling the need to tighten the purse strings and stay at home rather than travel abroad. Passenger numbers fell by almost one and a half per cent but Colin Matthews, the chief executive of BAA, believes that the operator has “delivered a resilient performance with results in line with forecasts”.

Furthermore, BAA is aware that the coming months are going to be tough for the airline industry as a direct result of the credit crunch but the operator is still set to try to improve customer satisfaction and improve the operational side of its business. BAA has revealed that it intends to fight to keep Edinburgh Airport, as well as Glasgow Airport, despite the recent findings of a report by the Competition Commission. Their report revealed that BAA should sell either Edinburgh or Glasgow but whilst the operator has announced plans to sell London Gatwick Airport, it is not keen to relinquish control of the Scottish airports.

Disabled girl stuck on plane at Edinburgh airport

Over recent years travel for disabled passengers and their families has become easier with growing awareness of the problems faced and appropriate legislation introduced. Sadly though this was not the case for the Pratt family from Cumbernauld near Glasgow who flew into Edinburgh airport recently.

Their ten year old daughter, Lucy, suffers from cerebral palsy and, in accordance with BAA requirements, the family had made it known to the airline when booking and again a few days before the flight that they would require a special disabled lift to disembark. The provision of the lift was not in itself the problem, more the fact that the only person trained to operate it was at home in bed.

Airline staff had the embarrassment of admitting to the Pratt family that they were not qualified to operate the equipment and although Lucy’s father Alex offered to help carry his daughter down the aircraft steps in her wheelchair, health and safety provisions were such that this was not a possibility. Had Mr Pratt had an accident he would not have been insured.

Airline staff suggested that he carry Lucy off the plane but due to her condition, which causes spasms of her limbs, Mr Pratt felt that this was too dangerous both for himself and his daughter. After an hour of discussions it was agreed that he could transport her in a light weight collapsible wheel chair.

Meanwhile the other passengers, who had waited half an hour for the problem to be resolved, had been bussed to the terminal. Mr Pratt describes the incident as “a farce” and told a Scottish newspaper that the whole situation was “shameful”.

Edinburgh airport has said that steps have been taken to make sure disabled access is available 24 hours a day, small compensation for the Pratt family, but at least the airport is now no longer breaching EU legislation introduced last month.

Edinburgh airport flies high

There’s a bit of a seesaw effect going on in the world of airports in the UK. When one goes up the others go down. When Heathrow goes down Gatwick goes up and now the latest airport to join Gatwick is Edinburgh, which this year has been going up and up and through the roof.

The Scottish capital’s airport has seen a 1.5% increase in passengers coming through its doors, which might not seem like the biggest leap forward in the world but the key figure is the record number of passengers in June 2008, which reached 859,000.

So why is this? Well a lot more Scots are travelling to popular holiday destinations such as Alicante and Malaga and also to destinations in France, Italy and Eastern Europe. Gone are the days of people driving down south to get flights abroad from the big London airports when they can use their regional airport. It’s not only Edinburgh either that is going up and up. Glasgow and Aberdeen airports, together with Edinburgh, have seen the total number of passengers in March 2008 reach 11.6 million people.

It does come as a slight surprise to the tourism industry but The Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA) have been keen to stress that the credit crunch is not affecting people’s decisions to holiday abroad as much as we might have thought. It might be that people, such as those using Edinburgh airport, want to escape from the financial burdens here in the UK this year more than any time.

Norwegian fined over bomb remark at Edinburgh

In this post 9/11 world where heightened sensitivities exist around planes and terrorist activities, a flippant remark about a bomb can land you in hot water – even if you are saying that you do NOT have a bomb on your person!

This was the lesson learnt last week by a fifty two year old engineer from Ankenesstrand in Norway. Kjell Bjoennes became obstructive when he was asked to remove his belt, when passing through security at Edinburgh airport. Security staff decided to make the request because the belt had a heavy buckle but Mr Bjoennes became abusive, shouting at staff that he had a belt, not a bomb. Having removed his belt to have it put through the metal detector, he was picked out for a random search, adding to his displeasure. He continued to insult security personnel, belittling their job and made further remarks about bombs.

The police were called and Bjoennes apologised. He was arrested, nevertheless, and appeared last week at Edinburgh Sheriff Court, where he was fined £650 after pleading guilty to a breach of the peace. The judge, Sheriff John Horsburgh QC, indicated that the father of two had got off lightly. Had he not pleaded guilty early on, the fine would have been £1000. Regard was given to the fact that the Norwegian engineer earns £120,000 a year net of tax, with the judge saying that, in the light of his high earning power, a substantial fine was justified. The court heard that alcohol had played no part in the incident, with Mr Bjoennes being teetotal.

In 2004 a British student found out how seriously so-called jokes about bombs are taken by the American authorities. After she joked about having three bombs in her luggage at Miami airport she was arrested and could have been jailed for 15 years. Instead she was ordered to pay a thousand dollars to a charity for the families of those killed in the 9/11 attacks and to write a letter of apology.