Comment: Airlines’ price war is healthy for us

Expanded services to popular Dubai will benefit Scotland’s trade, writes David Robertson

David Robertson

The escalating price war between rival airlines targeting Scottish business for their Middle East routes is set to benefit the Scottish economy as we further develop our links with the region.

The plans by Etihad Airways to launch its new Edinburgh to Abu Dhabi service from June 2015 is further development of the focus on eastward travel emerging over the past decade, providing a great opportunity for Scotland’s economy. This follows Emirates Airlines’ 2004 launch of its direct Glasgow to Dubai service, which may soon be increased to three daily flights, and the Qatar Airways Edinburgh to Doha route which began in May.

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This relatively new wave of airlines – Qatar was founded in 1993, Etihad in 2003 – and their Scottish routes bring healthy competition to the market and can only be good news for business travellers heading either direction without having to consider the alternative of having to make their journey via London or the European hubs.

We currently have around 8,000 seats per week going in and out of these thriving Gulf destinations. In addition to serving their home region, these carriers offer connections to key emerging markets in the Far East, India and Africa. They also link to Antipodean nations, an important route for tourism given that Edinburgh is currently ranked as the second most visited city in the world by Australians.

The additional Edinburgh to Abu Dhabi route means enhanced competition and this is already proving to be good news for Scottish travellers. In September it was reported that it is now cheaper to fly direct from Scotland on Middle Eastern routes than from London, the result of price-cutting amongst all three carriers which has intensified following Eithad’s announcement.

Bringing larger aircraft direct into Scotland also means greater capacity for air cargo exports and imports. This presents a great opportunity for the likes of Scotland’s flourishing food and drink sector to export more products like whisky and salmon which are in growing demand in emerging markets. Emirates Airlines alone has transported ten million bottles of whisky to Dubai International Airport since 2004.

The scope to do business in the region extend beyond Scotland’s exporters. While the United Arab Emirates still holds the seventh largest oil reserves on the planet, the UAE is focused on diversifying its economy meaning there are huge opportunities for companies operating across a wide range of sectors.

According to Scottish Enterprise, which has been continually building links between Scotland and the Middle East, the fastest growing sector in Dubai last year was hospitality which saw impressive growth of 13 per cent.

The Scottish Government has also been flying the flag for enhanced business and tourism links with the Middle East and last year staged its first ever Scotland Day in Qatar to showcase traditional and contemporary Scottish culture. This focus of public resources along with the launch of the additional air routes provides a great platform for the Scottish business community to grasp more opportunities across the Middle East and build on its current success.

On this basis, as well as the enhanced offering that these new direct routes offer to both Scottish holidaymakers and to the tourism sector here, we should be hopeful that the new Edinburgh to Abu Dhabi service will enjoy the success of existing routes from Scotland into the Gulf Region.

David Robertson is a consultant with Colpitts World Travel