DIRECT flights between Scotland and China are a matter of “when, not if” because of the revolutionary Boeing 787 Dreamliner, Edinburgh airport’s chief executive has told The Scotsman.
Gordon Dewar’s bold prediction came as British Airways flew its first Dreamliner into Scotland’s busiest airport yesterday to show it off prior to the aircraft going into service today on the Heathrow-Stockholm route, as a warm-up for long-haul duties.
British Airways will switch its Dreamliners to the Heathrow-Toronto route from 1 September and also Heathrow-New York (Newark) a month later. Thomson Airways has flown the plane from Glasgow to Florida and Mexico since July.
BA, which took VIPs on a flight over the Highlands last night, has no plans to fly it again from Scotland.
However, Mr Dewar said the aircraft’s long range and superior fuel economy would transform the long-haul route map from Edinburgh. He said: “It will open up a complete new set of destinations, such as China and the west coast of America.”
Referring to China, Mr Dewar said: “It’s not a case of if, but when. The time will come when there is an economic case for it and we think it will be an attractive route.”
The Scottish Government has expressed its keenness to win a Chinese air link, following closer ties between the two countries which have included the arrival of two pandas at Edinburgh Zoo.
VisitScotland chairman Mike Cantlay said there had been an “exponential” growth in the number of Chinese visitors to Scotland.
Experts agreed the aircraft had potential for new Scottish long-distance routes. Aviation consultant Laurie Price said: “The 787’s 20 per cent plus improvement in fuel burn will improve the operating economics of many thinner [less profitable] long-haul routes, potentially making the development of more direct long-haul services from Edinburgh and Glasgow viable.”
The Dreamliner is also seen as being popular with passengers because its quieter and lower-pressure cabin and sophisticated cabin lighting system is claimed to reduce the effects of jet lag.
BA will no doubt hope to use this to lure more Scottish passengers flying to Toronto and New York away from rivals, such as United, which flies direct between Edinburgh, Glasgow and the Big Apple, and Air Canada, which has launched summer services between Edinburgh and Toronto.
However, its operations director stressed yesterday that following a series of serious faults with other Dreamliners, including fires and emergency landings, it would take no chances.
Andy Lord said: “Safety is our absolute first priority, and the aircraft would not be in service with us if it was not 100 per cent safe to operate, and we were happy to operate it.”
The Dreamliner which visited Edinburgh yesterday is the first of 24 on order, with an expected 18 more to, follow, which will be spread across the airline’s long-haul network.
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