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Airport launches £15m bid for new long-haul services

EDINBURGH Airport is to set up a £15 million fighting fund to develop new long-haul routes, in an aggressive bid to win customers from Glasgow.

FLYING HIGH: Edinburgh Airport currently handles 9.2 million passengers and  now a bid has been launched to add to its 130 destinations.
FLYING HIGH: Edinburgh Airport currently handles 9.2 million passengers and now a bid has been launched to add to its 130 destinations.

The annual Route Development Fund aims to attract more international routes to Scotland and help the airport maintain an edge over its domestic rivals.

It is thought Washington DC and Chicago are among destinations Edinburgh wants to add to its network, with improved links to European cities and the Middle East also in its sights.

The move comes seven months after Glasgow launched a second daily Emirates flight to Dubai.

Gordon Dewar, Edinburgh Airport's chief executive, told business leaders at a Scottish Council for Development and Industry dinner last night that he was seeking support from the city council and the Chamber of Commerce to promote the capital to global airlines.

Edinburgh overtook Glasgow in 2007 as Scotland's busiest airport and has 9.2 million passengers a year, but it trails its west coast rival in long-haul destinations.

The airport was sold to Gatwick owner Global Infrastructure Partners (GIP) last year by BAA, which still owns Glasgow and Aberdeen airports in Scotland, in order to comply with a ruling by the Competition Commission to improve passenger choice in the central belt.

The announcement follows a row last month, triggered by Lufthansa's decision to switch its Dusseldorf flights from Edinburgh to Glasgow.

Mr Dewar claimed at the time that Glasgow had been given an unfair advantage as it had been supported with public money through Glasgow City Marketing Bureau.

He said the new fund would add to the 130 destinations available from Edinburgh and comes after new routes were announced by Easyjet, Ryanair, Brussels Airlines, Air Canada and Virgin Atlantic. A new Turkish Airlines service to Istanbul, which operates four days a week, is said to be flourishing.

"Creating new routes is one of our core activities. We came to Edinburgh last summer focused on building Scotland's connections with the world. The deals with easyJet and Ryanair alone will see almost 16 million passengers pass through Edinburgh Airport over the next five years," Mr Dewar said.

"But we are hungry for more success and will work hard to take business from other Scottish airports and our European competitors.

"To fuel that competitive effort, we will invest £15m a year underwriting new direct routes for Edinburgh, sharing the commercial risk with airlines. It is simply putting our money where our mouth is.

"In doing so we send a powerful message to international airlines – we're the place where Scotland meets the world so come here and we will work harder than anybody else to deliver you long-term success."

The fund has been welcomed by council and business leaders in Edinburgh.

Frank Ross, convener of the council's economy committee, said: "This recognises the importance of tourism and the need to continually boost visitor numbers in the city."

Hugh Rutherford, chair of the Edinburgh Business Forum, added: " Attracting new routes into Edinburgh fits well with the council's Strategy for Jobs and will boost local businesses and inward investment."

David Birrell, chief executive of Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce, said: "Edinburgh is a world-class city, culturally and economically. Investing in our transport links is an essential element in ensuring we retain and enhance that profile."

Mike Cantlay, chairman of VisitScotland, said: "It's great news for Scotland and is a key investment in the country's future. Good connectivity is imperative to Scotland's success not just as a tourism destination in 2013, but as we prepare to host globally significant events in 2014 such as the Commonwealth Games, Ryder Cup and the second Year of Homecoming."

DAMIEN HENDERSON

Contextual targeting label: 
Travel

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