Airport fee is 'desperate' bid for cash

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EDINBURGH Airport's controversial drop-off charge is a "desperate" attempt to raise extra cash amid signs that passenger growth forecasts are set to flop, an aviation expert claimed today.

Airport bosses have justified the new 1 charge, due to be introduced in October, on the grounds it will help fund investment needed as passenger numbers increase from the current nine million a year to 13 million by 2013.

But Scots-based aviation writer Richard Havers said the projections were "wildly optimistic".

And he said: "If Edinburgh airport is carrying 13 million passengers by 2013, I'll run naked down the runway."

Mr Havers said the passenger projections were based on the airport's masterplan produced in 2006.

But he produced figures showing passenger numbers had been "relatively static" at just above or below nine million for the past few years and said circumstances had changed since the projections were made.

He said: "There is no way they are going to get to 13 million. They based their study on the growth that had been happening in the late 1990s and early 2000s, but that was never going to be sustained.

"They predicted far too rosy a future and now it's not happening they are desperately to claw some money back."

Edinburgh airport has been outperforming Glasgow for some time, but Mr Havers claimed the comparison between the two operations masked disappointing figures for Edinburgh.

He said: "They are doing nowhere near as well as they claimed they were going to do."

His calculations, based on the airport's own figures, show passenger numbers increased from 8,608,700 to 9,039,100 in 2007, then dropped to 8,993,200 in 2008 before increasing again to 9,046,900 last year.

Mr Havers' calculations also suggest this year's passenger total is currently eight per cent below the equivalent figure for last year.

He said: "BAA's growth in business has been predicated on retail, but people are not spending the sort of money at the airport that they used to.

"The Government should never have sold off the airports. They are now owned by shareholders, they have to find ways of feeding the dragon and they have run out of them, so they have come up with this absurd 1 charge."

The airport did not respond to Mr Havers' comments.