Comment: New airport owner setting the right flight plan
THE new owner of Edinburgh airport has delivered an early success on its promise to increase international connections.
Flights between the city and Istanbul took off yesterday in a further enhancement of the range of destinations now available directly from and to Scotland.
It was always the intention of Global Infrastructure Partners (GIP) and, it has to be said, by at least one of its rival bidders, that Edinburgh should strive to avoid the log-jam of the London hubs, particularly Heathrow.
The lack of direct connections to many of the world’s principal locations has been a frustration for tourists and business travellers alike and a disincentive to investors looking to position their operations in Scotland.
Istanbul opens up further links to Asia, China and the Middle East, booming regions with their huge potential for business opportunities.
The signs are therefore positive for Edinburgh, which last year was again the busiest airport in Scotland, handling almost 9.4 million passengers and 113,000 aircraft movements – the fifth-largest number of any UK airport.
This, of course, was achieved under previous ownership: BAA invested tens of millions of pounds on a new control tower, improved car parking, and an extended arrivals hall. It has set a standard for GIP to beat.
The firm has already begun that process, employing some of the tactics it used when it bought Gatwick, where there have been a number of improvements to the customer experience and the airport’s operation. It has sent in experts to assess the check-in procedures, the security halls and management of queues. The main target is attracting more long-haul carriers, with the focus on luring Middle East and US airlines.
The Scottish Government is encouraged by developments and is pushing for devolution of air passenger duty to help secure new flights. Ironically, the more Edinburgh achieves on its own the less likely this is to happen.
Hear no evil, see no evil is the bankers’ mantra
good luck to the parliamentary Commission on Banking Standards which is expected to get some clarification on the causes of recent scandals. On recent evidence, no-one is prepared to take the blame for the bad behaviour and scandals and few will pinpoint how to put things right.
So far we have a lot of buck passing, denials, shrugged shoulders and weak recollections as to who said what to whom and when they said it. The Bank of England deputy governor, Paul Tucker, claimed he didn’t know until recently that Barclays had been submitting artificially low rates since 2008 – an odd admission for someone paid to keep a close eye on the markets and who hopes to succeed the governor, Sir Mervyn King, next year.
Recent documents released by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York revealed misgivings about the way Libor was operating and how Timothy Geithner, its then president, had urged the Bank to make changes. King agreed that they “seem sensible to us” and passed Geithner’s recommendations to the British Bankers’ Association which oversees Libor. The BBA’s outgoing chief executive Angela Knight said the proposals were incorporated into changes, though exactly what effect these had is unclear as no-one beyond the principal players seems to have known what was going on.
Yesterday, Jerry del Missier, who quit as Barclays chief operating officer over the Libor revelations, told MPs he believed the Bank of England alone instructed Barclays to lower Libor submissions.
Yet his former boss Bob Diamond previously told the committee he did not believe the Bank of England instructed Barclays to lower the inter-bank lending rate and did not believe he instructed del Missier to do so.
It’s beginning to sound like a giant game of pass the parcel, except no wants to be left holding it when the music stops.
Direct line to a sale may be best option
Royal Bank of Scotland may welcome interest from private equity groups in buying its insurance business. RBS plans to float the division, which includes Direct Line and Churchill, but with equity markets remaining cautious it might get a better price through a trade sale.
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Friday 24 May 2013
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