John McLellan: Edinburgh Airport soars despite new Heathrow runway

It's three years since I wrote here about how the future of Scotland's airports would be dictated by the London runway decision, at least that's what industry insiders were saying at the time. Despite UK Transport Secretary Chris Grayling's announcement this week that Heathrow has finally been selected, the prospect of expansion is little nearer.

United Airlines inaugural flight from Edinburgh Airport to Washington, DC, 24 may 2018.

With the affected London boroughs all opposed to the scheme, years of legal wrangles are inevitable given how long even uncontroversial projects can take. It’s a good time to be a planning lawyer.

But while the government dithered in the face of internal opposition from the likes of Justine Greening and Boris Johnson, the air industry has been getting on with it; Gatwick has been reconfigured to bring more domestic flights to the south terminal next to the train station and is now set to develop its little-used emergency runway to increase capacity no matter what happens at Heathrow.

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Third Heathrow runway gets government go-ahead

At the peak of the tussle, Edinburgh argued very strongly that snubbing its Gatwick stablemate would suck international traffic to Heathrow and leave Edinburgh languishing as a regional off-shoot.

Instead, Edinburgh has taken advantage of the hiatus, developing link services to Schiphol, but is now attracting a growing number of direct flights to cut down the reliance on a London hub, with new services to Washington DC, Dubai, Beijing, Helsinki and Seville announced this year alone.

So while Gatwick is still favoured by Edinburgh, the reaction to the Grayling announcement has largely been “whatever...”