Scotland’s busiest airports will be pulling out all the stops to cope with an unprecedented number of passengers at the start of the holiday rush this week.
Millions of pounds have been spent and extra staff will be deployed to handle the influx, which comes amid a rise in flight delays linked to a boom in air travel.
Edinburgh and Glasgow airports, which are operating at record levels, are braced for their busiest days of the year so far over the next two weeks.
In Glasgow, where schools finish on Tuesday, the airport is expecting more than 38,000 passengers on Friday – 2,000 more than last year.
In Edinburgh, where schools do not break up until Friday, airport chiefs anticipate a peak of 50,449 passengers using the terminal a week later.
The capital’s airport, Scotland’s busiest, expects to handle more than 2.6 million in July and August – five times the city’s population.
However, it comes as Civil Aviation Authority figures show the number of flight delays have significantly increased over the last three years by up to 12 percentage points.
A total of 27 per cent of flights were late in the year to March in Edinburgh – nearly 31,000 – with more than 500 at least three hours behind schedule.
The figure for Glasgow was 25 per cent, with 21,000 flights late and more than 400 three hours late. Aberdeen’s was 21.5 per cent with 70 late.
Edinburgh said that there had been a “great improvement” this year with far fewer delays, and it was confident that would continue. It said many were caused by airlines or other factors such as bad weather and strikes.
The airport has revealed it has spent £21.5 million on preparations, including new aircraft stands – where passengers board – and the replacement of every chair in the terminal.
Ryanair – Edinburgh’s second busiest airline – said the stand work had caused delays this year.
Other measures are aimed at cutting queues, such as more e-gates at passport control for passengers arriving on international flights. The airport said more X-ray equipment for checking cabin baggage would enable security staff to process bags more quickly.
Chief executive Gordon Dewar said: “We’ve invested in the areas that can really make a difference to our customers’ journeys. This investment has been planned for months and is part of our continuous plan to develop and enhance our service.”
In Glasgow, extra staff will be deployed to help deal with congestion and queues.
Aberdeen expects 12,500 fliers on its busiest day next week – 800 more than in 2016.
National Air Traffic Services, which runs air traffic control, said Scottish flights had increased by nearly 6 per cent so far this year – outpacing forecasts.
Its summer preparations have included the big shift in holiday flights from the eastern Mediterranean to Spain and the United States, prompted by security fears.