EDINBURGH airport is poised to tighten the screw on its west coast rival after soaring to new heights with its passenger numbers.
Figures this week will show that almost ten million flyers passed through the Capital’s terminal in 2013 – making it the busiest 12 months ever for a Scottish airport.
The facility has been steadily pulling away from Glasgow having overtaken it in terms of passenger traffic some years ago. Both airports had the same owner until May 2012 when Edinburgh was sold by BAA to investment giant Global Infrastructure Partners (GIP), following a Competition Commission ruling.
Some £100 million of investment has already been pledged by the new owner over five years and airport bosses see the latest statistics as an endorsement of that strategy.
They are also confident that the opening of Edinburgh’s long-awaited tram service this spring will provide a further boost to numbers.
Edinburgh Airport’s chief executive, Gordon Dewar, said the opening of the line, and its interchange at Edinburgh Park rail station – further west than Haymarket – would make the capital a much more attractive option for flyers from the west of the country, with journey times frequently quicker to Edinburgh than Glasgow.
The Edinburgh population catchment is likely to be given an additional fillip with the planned opening in 2016 of a “gateway” station and interchange alongside the tram depot at Gogar.
Just under 9.8 million people travelled through Edinburgh Airport last year, a 6.3 per cent jump on 2012. It follows an 11 per cent year-on-year hike in December to 645,447 passengers, the latest figures reveal.
The airport has reported an increase in numbers from April through to last month, and had already recorded totals in excess of one million for both July and August.
The take-off in passenger traffic will also see Edinburgh leapfrog Luton in the UK airport rankings, as fifth biggest behind Manchester, Stansted, Gatwick – which is also owned by GIP – and Heathrow, in ascending order.
Dewar said he was “modestly surprised” by the December figures, which show that international passenger numbers rose by 16.4 per cent to just under 295,000. Domestic numbers were up by 6.9 per cent.
“We are probably slightly ahead of where we expected in December, but it is consistent with the trajectory that we had from April and after the very strong summer.”
He said that following 2012’s £807m change of ownership there had been a “real focus on the airline development stuff”, bringing in additional routes and services.
Dewar said: “We have been putting resource, time and enthusiasm into it. That probably waned when the sale process was going on.
“The thing that is fundamentally different is that we don’t have to worry about the niceties of stepping on Glasgow’s toes any more – quite the opposite. We can be more focused about Edinburgh when talking to airlines.”
He highlighted the significance of Edinburgh overtaking Luton, saying that it demonstrated the Capital was “not just another regional airport”.
Dewar added: “We have balanced inbound and outbound flows where places like Manchester, Glasgow and Birmingham are very predominately about outbound flows, and we have a good mix of international and domestic carriers.”