FLIGHTS from Glasgow to Dubai, the destination linking Scotland to Asia and Australia, are to double to twice daily – in a major setback for Edinburgh Airport’s ambition to win the potentially lucrative connection.
Emirates airline yesterday announced the extra service to Dubai from 1 June, eight years after launching the route, which it said had generated £164 million for the Glasgow economy and carried 1.7 million passengers. The move signalled Edinburgh’s failure to woo the airline, despite long-running talks.
Experts believe the move will set back the capital’s attempts to secure a route to a Middle East hub, although it is continuing discussions with other carriers.
The airport had hoped to establish such a stepping stone by this summer because it enables Scottish passengers to make one-stop long-haul journeys to the east – rather than two if they travelled via European hubs.
Emirates UK and Ireland vice-president Laurie Berryman said it had considered an Edinburgh-Dubai route, but decided to build on its Glasgow base instead. The move will create up to 15 jobs.
Mr Berryman said the 360-seat Boeing 777 aircraft on the Glasgow route – the biggest in regular service in Scotland – were operating at full capacity.
Seven in ten passengers travel on from Dubai further east, with Australian destinations among the most popular. The lunchtime departure to Dubai will be supplemented by an overnight service, taking off at 9:30pm.
Initially, Emirates will use a smaller Airbus A340, with 274 seats, for the new flight, but both services will feature Scotland’s inaugural first-class cabin on a scheduled route.
Mr Berryman said the second flight would improve connections to countries such as New Zealand – where passengers are currently put up in a hotel during a 12-hour stopover in Dubai. Emirates has 112 onward routes from Dubai, along with five others from the UK.
He said of Glasgow: “It has been one of the most successful services we have ever had. We will see very strong growth.”
Aviation analyst John Strickland, of JLS Consulting, said: “This is good news for Glasgow Airport and for the wider Scottish economy, but it will most probably make it more difficult for a deal to be concluded – at least in the short term – to add a similar Middle Eastern hub route to Edinburgh’s portfolio.
“This is a significant jump in capacity and, added to the connections available via European hubs, it will likely reduce the appetite for more from other prospective carriers.”
Glasgow City Council leader Gordon Matheson said: “It’s difficult to overstate the significance of today’s announcement, which will forge greater business links and help boost Glasgow’s reputation as a major tourism and convention centre. It also reinforces Glasgow’s position as Scotland’s long-haul gateway.”
Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said: “This route opens up so much in the way of connections with traditional and emerging markets in Asia, south-east Asia, Australasia and Africa.”
Glasgow Chamber of Commerce chief executive Stuart Patrick described it as “a clear vote of confidence in Glasgow’s ongoing economic success”.
A spokesman for Edinburgh Airport said: “We’re continuing to discuss new long-haul routes with carriers, both east and west, and we’re confident that our global routes will grow.”