Ryanair in Edinburgh expansion talks despite Covid travel restrictions ‘shambles’

Bullish budget airline Ryanair today revealed it is in talks with Edinburgh Airport over further expansion despite the “utter shambles” of the Covid traffic light system which has hit demand for holiday flights.

The carrier said it was looking to further increase the eight aircraft due to based in the capital by this winter, with more new routes to be announced in the interim.

Director of commercial Jason McGuinness told The Scotsman: “We are very much in growth mode.”

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He said an unspecified number of the 2,000 extra pilots Ryanair plans to recruit over the next three years would be based in Edinburgh if an expansion deal is struck.

Ryanair plans to fly 4.7 million people in and out of Scotland over the next year

Mr McGuinness said: “That really depends on where our Edinburgh negotiations go.

"We are currently in discussions with Gordon [Dewar – Edinburgh Airport chief executive] and his team, which are progressing very well.

"We would certainly hope to be adding new aircraft at Edinburgh over the coming years.

"We’ll be back no doubt very soon to hopefully announce more routes and and frequencies, not just Edinburgh but all of our Scottish airports.

However, Mr McGuinness said the traffic light travel system was “utter shambles in creating utter confusion amongst everyone.

"I work in the industry and I would struggle to explain it.

"Last week, the scheme suddenly had a new colour – amber plus.

"Fully-vaccinated travellers should be allowed to travel to Europe without all the restrictions.”

By contrast, he said Ryanair was flying more passengers on more routes elsewhere in Europe than before the pandemic.

Ryanair plans to fly 4.7 million people into and out of Scotland over the next year, with 245 flights a week on 78 routes this summer, and 203 flights on 55 routes this winter.

Mr McGuinness said these would also boost the Scottish economy by bringing in visitors at a time when Edinburgh hotel occupancy rates were as low as 10-20 per cent.

The routes include 58 routes from Edinburgh this summer, compared to some 64 it had hoped to run last summer.

A further ten will operate from Prestwick, the same number as planned last year, along with seven from Glasgow (six) and three from Aberdeen (three).

The airline last month launched a new route from Edinburgh to Naples, previously operated by Jet2, and is due to take over services between Edinburgh and Knock in September, ended when Flybe collapsed in March last year.

It will also add Edinburgh-Zadar this summer, and Tallinn and Turin in the winter for the first time.

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Its Scottish routes this winter comprise 45 from Edinburgh, five from Prestwick, four from Glasgow and one from Aberdeen.

Edinburgh Airport chief executive Gordon Dewar said: “We know people want and need to travel, whether that is to reunite with families or take a longed-for break, and bringing visitors back to Scotland will also be important due to the many thousands of jobs that rely on tourism.

“Working with our airline partners to continue to provide choice for our passengers will be an important part of our rebuild and the safe restart of travel, and Ryanair’s confidence in Edinburgh and Scotland is a huge positive for us and the aviation sector as a whole.”

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