Dozens of daytripping pensioners are tucking into lunch at Edinburgh Airport each day as free tram travel for over-65s begins to take off.
Scotland’s busiest terminal has seen an unexpected boon in luncheons since the tram launch on May 31, with growing evidence to suggest it has become a rendezvous favourite among city pensioners.
Food and drink sales have soared by eight per cent in recent weeks, the airport has confirmed, while tram ticket collectors have told of a daily exodus to the airport by retired residents.
The News caught up with Clermiston trio Georgina Dawson, 81, Rose O’Donnell, 73, and Kathleen O’Donnell, 70, amid tea and cream scones at the Wetherspoon pub.
Kathleen said the group wanted to take advantage of their new-found free transport system.
“We wanted to see what the tram is all about and grab a bite to eat at the same time so we decided to come out to the airport,” she said. “It’s free to get here, so why not?”
Sister Rose added: “The tram was quite slow but it’s somewhere different to go.
“There’s quite a buzz about the place and the food is quite cheap.”
All agreed to “take a tour of the shops” before heading home on the tram.
Another airport “tourist” was 71-year-old Stanley Reilly from Dumbiedykes, who was among the 1000 volunteers who tested the tram during Exercise Salvador at Murrayfield back in March.
He now regularly travels to the airport via light rail for a “cheap bite to eat”. He said: “I’ll use the tram a lot as pensioners ride for free. It’s just a quick walk up to York Place and I can hop on and within the hour be at the airport.”
Concessionary tram travel is a preserve of Edinburgh pensioners following pressure from the Evening News to ensure OAPs’ free board on buses was replicated on rail. Elderly residents across the Lothians – but outwith the Capital – are not eligible to board tram carriages for free.
City transport convener Councillor Lesley Hinds said it was “no surprise” businesses at Edinburgh Airport had enjoyed a sales boost from “tram joyrides” and revealed her own husband was among them.
“There’s a real buzz around the city now that trams are up and running and I think people want to experience what it’s like to travel by tram – for its own sake and also maybe in preparation for using it to get to the airport to go on holiday,” she said.
John Watson, chief commercial officer for Edinburgh Airport, said there had been a “significant increase” in families and pensioners visiting the airport “simply to experience the tram for themselves, without flying”.
He said: “It’s clear that the trams are proving to be a real star attraction for many people.
“It’s great to see so many people already using the trams, whether for work, leisure or simply to pass an afternoon. With our new tram stop nearing official completion, we’re looking forward to welcoming more people into the airport, to experience the buzz that summertime brings to our city.”