Airport priorities

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The recent departure of Edinburgh Airport’s chief operating officer (your report, 4 August) will come as no surprise to those who have had the misfortune to travel through this facility in the past few months.

A quick scan of the review websites will reveal the disgust which most users have for this airport: its bumbling, incompetent and degrading security system; its overcharging for picking up and dropping off passengers; its inefficient flight arrivals procedures; its over-commercialisation; its general overcrowding.

The list is long and the ineptitude ongoing. Many have stated they will not use Edinburgh again, and one American traveller even comments that she will not return to Scotland as a result. Clearly it is damaging the country’s reputation.

This decline of a once proud airport coincides with the expansion of flights to and from it, heralded as a success story by the airport’s current owners, Global Infrastructure Partners (GIP), a New York-based organisation backed by Australian pension funds.

It is clear, however, that GIP has gone for expansion well before there is the capacity to actually deal with the increased numbers, which this has generated.

The figures speak for themselves here. GIP purchased Edinburgh Airport in 2012 from BAA for £807 million, and has leveraged that by loans totalling £440m.

Pre-tax profits last year were just £22.8m, yet dividends to GIP and its partners have risen from £20m in 2013 to £142m last year.

A substantial gain for the investors here, which might be considered by some to be completely disproportionate. At the same time, the top executives at Edinburgh have received extraordinarily generous salary rises, despite the chaos which the ordinary traveller has had to endure.

While there can be no arguing with the desirability of Edinburgh’s expansion of flights, this ambition should have been undertaken in a measured and logical fashion.

That this has not taken place in this instance suggests strongly that private profitability comes well ahead of the convenience for the customer.

One can only hope that GIP will start to invest more in its clients’ comforts and convenience in future, starting immediately, failing which perhaps Mr Dewar, the chief executive officer, might like to consider his own future.

AH Muir Jnr

Near Dirleton

East Lothian

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