THE owners of Edinburgh Airport are targeting new routes to the Middle East and North America using a £15 million war chest.
The development fund will be used as an incentive to convince airlines to bring new routes to the Capital, with the pot of money to help plug funding gaps.
Airport chief executive Gordon Dewar announced the move in a speech delivered to business leaders at a Scottish Council for Development and Industry event.
It is believed that airport chiefs will look towards destinations outside of Europe in a bid to expand the transport hub’s network.
Direct flights are available from Edinburgh to only three North American destinations – New York, Toronto and Orlando.
Flights to popular Egyptian destination Sharm el-Sheikh are due to start in the spring, but there are no direct routes into the Middle East outside of Turkey and Cyprus. Passengers travelling from Glasgow can conversely fly to ten North American cities, including Las Vegas and Vancouver. Airline giant Emirates also flies to Dubai daily from Glasgow.
Mr Dewar said the development fund would help to share the commercial risk with airlines, helping to convince them to come on board. He said the fund’s creation would send a powerful message to international airlines, adding: “We want to know which markets are important and what the value might be to Edinburgh. I am confident that Edinburgh Airport will grow and our route network will soon be the envy of many European airports.”
The decision comes in response to a fall in passenger numbers last year coinciding with the sale of the airport by BAA to existing owners Global Infrastructure Partners [GIP] in April.
A total of 9.2 million passengers travelled through the airport in 2012 – 190,000 fewer than the previous year.
Reduced international passenger numbers accounted for most of the fall, with Mr Dewar conceding the airport had “lost some momentum” following the purchase. In contrast, Glasgow Airport experienced an annual increase of 4.2 per cent in passenger numbers to almost 7.2 million.
City economy committee convener, Councillor Frank Ross, said the fund’s existence recognised the need to boost visitor numbers to Edinburgh.
He said: “It builds on significant recent developments in the public and private sectors such as our investment in an extension for the EICC and new hotels coming to Edinburgh.
David Birrell, chief executive of Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce, said: “Edinburgh is a world-class city culturally and economically. Investing in and enhancing our transport links is an essential element in ensuring we retain that profile and enhance it further.”