Scotland suffers 30,000 fall in air passengers
THE number of passengers using Scotland's three main airports was cut by up to nearly 30,000 last month because of the British Airways cabin crew strikes.
Airport operator BAA said the seven days of walkouts, which forced the cancellation of dozens of Scotland-London flights, had reduced passengers by up to 2 per cent – or 27,500.
The firm said the collapse of Scottish holiday airline Flyglobespan in December had also had a major impact at Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen airports.
Glasgow, where the airline carried nearly 40,000 passengers in March last year, was worst hit, with its total plunging by 9.6 per cent to 473,900 last month.
The airport's annual traffic shrank by 10.3 per cent to less than 7.1 million – and is almost down to the levels of ten years ago.
The fall puts Edinburgh Airport nearly two million passengers a year ahead of its west coast rival, and growing at 1.6 per cent a year to nine million. Last month, Edinburgh's total was down by 3.3 per cent to 671,500.
A Glasgow airport spokesman said: "The loss of Globespan was the major factor in the overall monthly performance and accounts for most of the shortfall against last year.
"Disruption resulting from the British Airways strike action was less than had been expected, with only 1-2 per cent of London services during the month affected. March none-the-less showed a number of encouraging passenger trends.
"Charter traffic was up against March last year, as was the number of passengers carried by both Emirates (to its Dubai hub] and Continental (to its New York hub]."
Edinburgh Airport said it had expected numbers to be down, even without the BA strikes, because of the loss of Flyglobespan routes at the start of the holiday season.
Most of these will not be filled by other airlines, such as Ryanair, until May.
An airport spokesman said: "The slight drop in passenger numbers in March is mainly down to the impact of the BA strike and the ongoing legacy of the collapse of Flyglobespan. We had forecast a low month and were prepared for the figures. As our new flights and routes become operational, we'll see the Flyglobespan issues lessen."
At Aberdeen, passenger numbers were down by 4.4 per cent in March to 230,400. Its annual total was down by 8.7 per cent to nearly three million.
Managing director Kevin Brown said: "Our passenger numbers were impacted by a number of factors, not least the knock-on effect of the BA strikes.
"That said, there is a more positive feeling around this set of results and I am still hopeful we may get back to growth this year."
A spokeswoman said other factors included the Flyglobespan collapse and fog problems.
BAA said the three and four-day BA stoppages over consecutive weekends before Easter had reduced passengers at its airports by 200,000 – 90 per cent of them involving Heathrow.
Chief executive Colin Matthews said: "There is no doubt that the market remains difficult, compounded by industrial action last month."
Scottish-based aviation writer and former airline senior executive Richard Havers said a ceiling was being reached in Scottish aviation expansion.
He said: "We are not seeing the growth people thought there would be. Edinburgh Airport's figures are getting bigger, but some of these are switching from Glasgow and there are only so many people who can fly in and out of Scotland."
Talks between BA and the Unite union are understood to be continuing in the cabin crew dispute over cuts and job losses, with both sides saying progress has been made. However, the airline declined to give further details yesterday.
A spokesman said: "We're not giving a running commentary.
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Sunday 26 May 2013
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