Edinburgh Airport secures fourth daily flight to key US destination as it boasts becoming 'Scotland's airport'

Extra service to New York takes off as airport urges international routes be focused on Edinburgh

Within 90 minutes every lunchtime, three of four daily flights leave Edinburgh for New York - an indication of the airport’s increasingly dominance of Scottish aviation. The addition of JetBlue to the route last week further highlights the contrast with Glasgow Airport, which lost its 22-year-old connection to the Big Apple in 2020.

The airline has joined Delta in flying daily during the summer to JFK Airport, while United last year added a second daily flight for the summer to Newark on the other side of the city.

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JetBlue flight crew at the launch of its first flight from Edinburgh on May 23. (Photo by JetBlue)JetBlue flight crew at the launch of its first flight from Edinburgh on May 23. (Photo by JetBlue)
JetBlue flight crew at the launch of its first flight from Edinburgh on May 23. (Photo by JetBlue) | JetBlue

It’s the latest sign of Edinburgh’s transatlantic route expansion, which chief executive Gordon Dewar has described as "a phenomenal growth story". Such passengers increased by nearly 50 per cent to 628,000 last year compared to pre-Covid 2019. The airport will fly to six US cities among 17 long-haul routes this summer, with Emirates also resuming flights to its Dubai hub for connections to Asia and Australia in November after a gap of four years.

That will provide Edinburgh with a second link to the Middle East along with Qatar, which celebrates ten years flying from the airport this month.

Edinburgh has been emboldened by such route expansion and its expected record 15 million passengers this year to go from describing itself as where “Scotland meets the world” to being “Scotland’s airport”.

Its new surface access strategy, published this month, stated: “As Scotland’s airport, we must ensure we are connected and accessible to people from Edinburgh, Elgin and Eigg.” Mr Dewar told an Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce event to mark the 20th anniversary of United’s New York route in June, which was the airport’s first long-haul route: “We have to try and serve the whole of Scotland.

“We're pretty well-placed geographically. If you were going to have one airport in Scotland, it wouldn't be very far from where Edinburgh is. We can serve the country very well and there are huge benefits of concentration of service by airlines.

“We have got a lot more to offer by concentrating international connectivity through Edinburgh, and as, if not more importantly, in terms of what's going to drive that, the airlines will make more money in Edinburgh - they've seen that for a number of years.”

Mr Dewar even went so far as to say airlines should expand at Edinburgh rather than also launch a route to the same destination from other Scottish airports such as Glasgow.

Edinburgh Airport chief executive Gordon Dewar said its increase in transatlantic traffic had been a “phenomenal growth story”. Photo by Edinburgh Airport/Ian Georgeson Photography)Edinburgh Airport chief executive Gordon Dewar said its increase in transatlantic traffic had been a “phenomenal growth story”. Photo by Edinburgh Airport/Ian Georgeson Photography)
Edinburgh Airport chief executive Gordon Dewar said its increase in transatlantic traffic had been a “phenomenal growth story”. Photo by Edinburgh Airport/Ian Georgeson Photography) | Ian Georgeson Photography

He said: “It's much more sensible to have double daily [flights] before you split services - there's a cost implication and there's a customer offer that matters as well.”

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Aviation analyst John Strickland said the cards were stacked in Edinburgh’s favour. He said: “Edinburgh is the best known Scottish airport globally. It also benefits from an affluent population in its core home catchment area.

“The airport enjoys a diverse range of airline customers, including the major European network and low cost carriers, leisure airlines and an increasing portfolio of direct long haul services.”

Mr Dewar said Edinburgh had a particular focus on developing US traffic because it was Scotland’s largest foreign tourism market and Americans were second only to the Chinese as big-spending visitors.

Visitors comprise around three quarters of the passengers on direct US flights to Edinburgh. Mr Dewar said: “This is the export market that matters - the money going into the Scottish economy, supporting the jobs, and not just of Edinburgh, but people going on all over Scotland to make that work.

“This is a high-value market that we have consistently put at the forefront of Scottish thinking at government and industrial level about how we can make more of it.”

He said the next stage could be greater links between US airlines flying into Edinburgh and low-cost carriers taking visitors on to Europe, since in the Scottish capital they were not competing with hub airlines like British Airways at Heathrow.

JetBlue expects the launch of its Edinburgh’s route will see fare reductions by its direct competitors, where passengers have traditionally often paid a premium compared to travelling via hubs such as Heathrow or Amsterdam.

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Chief operating officer Warren Christie said it could offer cheaper fares because of its lower cost structure. The aircraft it uses on the route, the Airbus A321neo, burns 20 per cent less fuel than older planes.

Edinburgh Airport chief executive Gordon Dewar with JetBlue chief operating officer Warren Christie. (Photo by JetBlue)Edinburgh Airport chief executive Gordon Dewar with JetBlue chief operating officer Warren Christie. (Photo by JetBlue)
Edinburgh Airport chief executive Gordon Dewar with JetBlue chief operating officer Warren Christie. (Photo by JetBlue) | JetBlue

Speaking at Edinburgh Airport at the route launch last Thursday, he said: “Customers shouldn't have to choose between low fares and great service - we deliver in both.”

He said JetBlue offered “an exceptional experience and affordable fares that are redefining transatlantic travel”, while Edinburgh had been one of its most requested European destinations.

Karolien de Herogh, UK sales director for United, said the airline also planned to up its game, but claimed it had the advantage of offering the only year-round Edinburgh-New York flights.

She told the Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce event in March: “Travel very often is commoditised - people think an airline is just a seat on a plane. We want to offer a superior travel experience.

United's flights to New York Newark launched as Edinburgh's first long-haul route in 2004. (Photo by United Airlines)United's flights to New York Newark launched as Edinburgh's first long-haul route in 2004. (Photo by United Airlines)
United's flights to New York Newark launched as Edinburgh's first long-haul route in 2004. (Photo by United Airlines) | United Airlines

“I know Edinburgh Airport really want us to fly the Airbus 321. Trust me, I'm putting a case forward on a weekly basis and we'll hopefully get the aircraft.”

Mr Strickland said: “JetBlue is one of North America’s leading airlines, and whilst to an extent can loosely be termed a ‘low cost’ carrier, it is more accurately a ‘hybrid’ carrier, offering a high service quality for all customers.

“It's real focus is its business product [class] called Mint. This aims to offer a high quality business service at prices pitched considerably lower than its competitors. This could provide it with considerable leverage on the route in attracting a share of business travellers , for example from the Edinburgh based financial sector.”

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