EDINBURGH Airport boss Gordon Dewar today claimed public money was being used to give rivals Glasgow an unfair advantage.
He alleged taxpayers’ cash had been handed out in a successful attempt to lure flights away from the Capital.
His claim follows the decision by German airline Lufthansa to switch its six-flights-a-week Dusseldorf service from Edinburgh to Glasgow from next April.
Glasgow City Marketing Bureau, which is funded by Glasgow City Council, has confirmed it provided up to £40,000 in marketing support, which it said would help increase passenger volumes.
Mr Dewar said he supported the principle of competition between Glasgow and Edinburgh, which he claimed had suffered when they were under the joint ownership of BAA, before Edinburgh was sold to Global Infrastructure Partners six months ago.
He added: “I further believe public money and bodies such as VisitScotland can, and should, be used to bring new routes to Scotland, and to ensure their longevity. This is clearly in our national strategic interest.
“On the other hand, I would be extremely concerned if Scottish taxpayers’ money was being used to distort competition between two Scottish airports, and if Scotland’s public bodies were involved in the commercial negotiations.”
A spokesman for Edinburgh Airport said the move by Lufthansa amounted to “cannibalising” routes between the Scottish hubs.
He added: “It would be different if public money was being used to support the development of new routes which would benefit the whole of Scotland.”
But Scott Taylor, chief executive of the Glasgow City Marketing Bureau, insisted Lufthansa’s decision to relocate would benefit the whole of Scotland.
He said: “We have been working with the airline to drive volume into Scotland.
“The marketing support to do this is going to benefit Scotland as a whole, not just Glasgow. Germany is Scotland’s biggest source of in-bound passengers and we are helping more Germans reach Scotland.”
The bureau has been involved in marketing work to support new air routes since 2007 when the Scottish Government’s air route development fund was forced to close due to conflict with European rules on state aid.
Its work with Lufthansa involved several PR agencies in Germany and spending between £20,000 and £40,000 on marketing support.
Mr Taylor said the decision by Lufthansa to relocate was based on feedback on where passengers wanted to fly to, but he added the marketing support would help maximise the number of passengers it carried.
He said: “Glasgow needs connections to European hubs and we don’t need the permission of another city to compete for them.”
VisitScotland said it had not provided any public funds to encourage the move.