Edinburgh Airport growth halted after Ryanair cuts

Edinburgh Airport has enjoyed continuous passenger growth since 2014 other than after the Beast from the East. Picture: Edinburgh Airport
Edinburgh Airport has enjoyed continuous passenger growth since 2014 other than after the Beast from the East. Picture: Edinburgh Airport
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Passenger numbers have fallen at Scotland's busiest airport for the first time in five years apart from snow disruption.

Edinburgh Airport blamed Ryanair cuts for a 1 per cent reduction last month to 1,309,170 compared to a year ago.

It said the budget airline axing its Stansted route had contributed to a 6.1 per cent fall in passengers on UK routes to 458,686.

That was partially offset by a 2 per cent growth on international routes to 850,484.

Sustainable transport campaigners welcomed the fall in UK passengers and hoped more would switch to rail.

The airport said: "The fall in domestic passengers had a big influence on the overall numbers as Ryanair ended its Stansted route.

"The route was reduced to four weekly from four daily in June before ending completely last month."

The only previous monthly reduction in passengers since 2014 was in March last year when the total fell by 0.1 per cent because of the Beast from the East snowfall.

However, the airport's underlying growth continued, with the annual total up by 4.8 per cent to 14.8 million in the year to October.

The fall in UK passengers came despite Flybe adding two more daily flights to Heathow and EasyJet seeing a passenger boost on its Stansted, while Ryanair launched a new route to Derry last November.

Ryanair was also a major contributor to Edinburgh's continued international growth, with new routes last winter to Seville, Tallinn, Berlin Schoenefeld, Stockholm Skavsta, Lisbon, Memmingen, Sofia and Riga.

It also launched new routes this year to Billund, Luxembourg and Bucharest.

Other boost factors were Emirates launching daily flights to Dubai last October and Qatar increasing its flights to Doha, and Delta to New York.

However, budget airline Norwegian scrapped the last of its three US routes in March along with several European links.

Chief executive Gordon Dewar said: “We’ve had almost 60 months of continuous growth and it’s unfortunate we’ve seen this temporary fall in passenger numbers - something we earlier this year predicted would happen.

“It shows us growth is not guaranteed and it is only possible with hard work and a collaborative approach.

"The arguments around air departure tax are well known and we cannot hide the fact we now have yet another obstacle to work around to deliver the growth that has become expected.

"Connectivity is important to Scotland and our initial talks with the Scottish Government about bringing the world closer to Scotland have been positive.

“As an airport, we play our part in tourism, business, education, research and culture, so ensuring a sustainable future for the industry is very important.

"We need to work together to deliver that.”

Aviation analyst John Strickland, of JLS Consulting, said: “Ryanair is always flexible in the way it allocates aircraft to airports and markets but the lack of expected Boeing 737 MAX aircraft in their fleet is adding additional pressures to its route planning.

“Norwegian is facing the same problem, combined with its own financial challenges and this has also resulted in Edinburgh losing additional capacity.”

Colin Howden, director of sustainable transport campaigners Transform Scotland said: “The continued growth in aviation is perhaps the biggest threat to tackling the climate emergency.

“As such, it’s great news Edinburgh Airport’s growth has halted. We look forward to further falls in the airport’s passenger numbers as Anglo-Scottish journeys increasingly transfer from air to rail.”