New airport boss to keep hugely unpopular drop-off charge

THE new boss of Edinburgh Airport has pledged to press ahead with a controversial drop-off charge for passengers, despite admitting that "nobody" wants to pay it.

Speaking for the first time since he took up his post last week, Kevin Brown said the new 1 charge would be introduced by the end of October.

But the former managing director of Aberdeen and Southampton Airports said disabled Blue Badge holders would be allowed to continue to drop off outside the terminal free of charge.

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Speaking to the Evening News, Mr Brown also said he was exploring the possibility of launching new routes to the Middle East and further services to the United States.

However, plans for a second runway at Turnhouse now look to have been shelved, with the airport admitting the "world is a very different place" from when the idea was proposed.

Campaigners had launched a bid to block the new "kiss and fly" tax, setting up a petition which currently has close to 5,000 signatures.

But Mr Brown said he had decided not to break with the idea put in train by his predecessor, Gordon Dewar.

Mr Brown said: "I have been out on the forecourt at peak times and despite there only being spaces for 15 to 18 cars, when I was there I saw 35 cars.

"We are trying to encourage people not to use the inner roads around the airport. I don't think anybody is happy about having to pay 1 - nobody wants to pay - but there's an understanding about the amount of investment we're putting into the airport.

"I'm not here to look good - I'm here to do what's right for the airport. We're a private business and we've got to make sound business decisions."

Mr Brown said those decisions included discussions about possible flights to the Middle East and more direct services to the United States.

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He said: "There's nothing we're in a position to announce at the moment. It (services to Dubai or Abu Dhabi) is a connection that we are interested in, as are more connection to the States and parts of Europe.

"There's key cities other than New York on the eastern seaboard and there's Canada as well. But New York is a large place and has three airports on its doorstep, and we're only connected in to one of them."

On the future expansion of the airport, Mr Brown said the coalition government had made themselves "clear" by the decision to scrap plans for a third runway at Heathrow.

A spokesman for Edinburgh Airport said a consultation was due to begin on the masterplan for the airport, which is due for publication next year.

He said the world was now a "very different place" from when the last masterplan was published in 2006, when the second runway was proposed.

Tory MSP Gavin Brown, who set up the petition against the drop-off charge, said: "to charge somebody to drop off is ridiculous, mean and cheap. The new managing director on day one in the job said he would be listening to passengers and the community before taking the decision, but a week later he's pressing ahead."

"I would urge him to think again. It's a terrible decision."