MORE flights to the Middle East from Edinburgh were signalled by Etihad Airways today, days after launching a route to Abu Dhabi - the city’s second route to a hub in the region.
The airline, which started daily flights on Monday, said there was “huge and growing potential” for further growth in the UK.
Chief commercial officer Peter Baumgartner told The Scotsman that expansion from Edinburgh could mirror that of Dublin, where Etihad has increased the size of aircraft and added a second daily flight in the last two years.
He said: “It is a good example of a potential development plan.”
However, Mr Baumgartner would not be drawn over which city would get Etihad’s second Scottish route, which chief executive James Hogan has said would be launched by 2020.
Etihad is competing with Qatar Airways, which started Edinburgh-Doha flights last year, but said it had more connections to India, south east Asia and Australia than its rival.
Mr Baumgartner claimed the development of Abu Dhabi airport, which will feature the world’s largest passenger terminal, would also give Etihad a “huge competitive advantage”.
Connecting passengers from Scotland will fill most seats to both hubs, which offer a quicker, one-hop stop for long-haul trips than flying via Heathrow or other European airports.
The launch of Edinburgh’s Middle Eastern links follows Emirates Airline expanding its Glasgow-Dubai route since launching it in 2004 with larger aircraft and a second daily flight.
It even flew in an Airbus A380 double-deck superjumbo on a one-off flight last year.
Edinburgh Airport chief executive Gordon Dewar predicted further Scottish expansion to the Gulf.
He said: “There is definitely room for this capacity in the Scottish market.
“The number of Chinese visitors has doubled each year for the last five years.
“There is no doubt for all three operators there is success in Scotland.”
VisitScotland chairman Mike Cantlay said key routes to Edinburgh for visitors were in India, Indonesia and Australia. He said: “There is a huge latent demand.”