‘World class’ experience at Edinburgh airport promised by new chief executive

GORDON Dewar, the returning chief executive of Edinburgh Airport, has ruled out a repeal of the unpopular £1 “kiss and fly” tax, but has pledged to expand the number of direct flights to North America and the Middle East available to travellers.

He also promised an improved “world class” experience for passengers as the airport’s new owner, Global Infrastructure Partners (GIP), outlined plans to invest in security in an effort to reduce queues.

Dewar and senior directors from GIP celebrated having taken formal control of the airport after the £807 million deal to buy it from BAA was completed on Thursday night.

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Dewar was managing director of Edinburgh under its former owner until 2010, when he left to become chief executive of the Bahrain Airport Company.

GIP said that one of Dewar’s first jobs would be to ring Michael O’Leary, the outspoken chief executive of Ryanair, who in April announced that the budget airline would close eight routes and 60 weekly flights from the airport by October, after it claimed BAA had rejected its cost-cutting proposals.

Dewar, who persuaded Ryanair to make Edinburgh a major base in 2008, said there was “a conversation to be had”.

He said: “Ryanair at Edinburgh has been a phenomenal success for both the airport and Ryanair, I see no reason why they can’t continue that.

“Clearly there is a conversation to be had commercially, and hopefully what we can do for them in terms of how we can make them even more successful. I am certain there is a deal in there that is good for Ryanair and for Edinburgh Airport.”

Michael McGhee, one of the founding partners of GIP and the man who led the transaction, said Dewar was the group’s “first, second and third” choice for the job of running the airport.

GIP now owns three UK airports, Edinburgh, Gatwick, which it acquired from BAA three years ago, and London City.

He said the firm recently altered the security area at Gatwick, demolishing shops to make way for it. He said: “We think the primary function of an airport is to serve passengers. Having said that, reducing time in the security queue destresses them and they have more time to spend in the shops.”

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Dewar said that GIP’s ownership would bring “massive benefits” to the airport, including a “world-class continuous improvement process”, although he insisted the airport would operate autonomously.

Edinburgh Airport will report to its own board, which will be chaired by former top civil servant Sir John Elvidge.

Dewar added that there would be fewer layers of management – previously he would refer decisions to London and then to Madrid, after BAA was acquired by Spanish group Ferrovial.

He said: “What GIP brings is a focus on the individual company. There is very direct decision-making, direct access to capital decisions and direct access to how we want to take the business forward.”

McGee and other GIP executives flew to Edinburgh on Thursday on the first connecting flight between Edinburgh and London City Airport.