BUDGET airline Ryanair has settled a major dispute with Edinburgh Airport after announcing six new routes from the Capital to cities across Europe.
The Irish carrier will fly an extra 200,000 passengers to and from the city in direct links with Bologna and Cagliari in Italy, Beziers in France, Santander in Spain, the Greek island of Corfu and Katowice in Poland.
The airline’s chief executive, Michael O’Leary, had sparked a spectacular row with BAA – the previous owners of Edinburgh Airport – in February after announcing he would axe five routes after failing to strike a deal to lower costs.
He had threatened that 300 of the 500 jobs at Edinburgh Airport would be lost as a result – which was flatly denied at the time.
Since then, the airport has been taken over by Global Infrastructure Partners, the American owners of Gatwick.
Mr O’Leary said the new operators had been far more open to business and suggested further announcements on growth were likely to follow.
He said: “We’ve been very impressed by GIP. I don’t think this announcement will be the last because, given their commitment, they want to grow the airport quickly and that’s a breath of fresh air after dealing with BAA who only wanted to fatten profits for its eventual sale.”
Mr O’Leary backed calls from all of Scotland’s main airports for the UK government to scrap air passenger duty. Last month, Edinburgh joined Aberdeen and Glasgow airports to commission a report that claimed the charge could lead to a drop in both passenger numbers and tourism spending.
The tax could cost the Scottish economy £210 million a year in lost tourism spending by 2016 and could lead to 2.1 million fewer passengers in Scotland’s airports by then, the report claimed.
The majority of MSPs believe the Scottish Parliament should have control over the aviation tax.
Mr O’Leary said: “It’s important Scotland gets control of that tax and whether they get independence or not, the government needs to reverse or scrap it.”
Gordon Dewar, chief executive of Edinburgh Airport, said: “When an airline the size of Ryanair isn’t getting on with the airport, that isn’t good for anyone and changing that was one of the focuses since GIP bought the airport.”