EasyJet slammed for new Edinburgh to Birmingham route as Capital's airport passenger growth slows

EasyJet have been criticised by climate emergency activists after announcing a new route between Edinburgh and Birmingham.

Thursday, 19th September 2019, 3:44 pm
Updated Thursday, 19th September 2019, 4:44 pm
easyJet have announced the launch of a route between Edinburgh and Birmingham

The move comes as Edinburgh Airport announces a 5.4 per cent drop in domestic flight numbers and an overall slow-down in passenger growth.

In May, the Scottish Government dropped plans for a new tax to replace passenger duty, Air Departure Tax, which would have included a 50 per cent cut in costs for airlines.

The tax plans were dropped due to pressure from climate activists and the announcement of a climate emergency in the UK.

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Dr Doug Parr, chief scientist for Greenpeace UK, said the new route between the Capital and Birmingham “frittered away” part of the so-called ‘carbon budget’, or the amount of carbon emissions that the country can afford to make without significant negative consequences.

He said: “We have a carbon budget. One of the great challenges of this century will be how we allocate that limited carbon budget amongst vitally important industries that can’t operate without carbon emissions – for example cement production, or whenever there is a genuine need to quickly cross an ocean.

“As things stand, we will have to limit these useful and important activities much more than we could have done, because we’ll have frittered away much of that budget on pointless wastes of carbon like flying from Birmingham to Edinburgh.”

However, chief executive at Edinburgh Airport Gordon Dewar blamed the slowdown in growth at the airport on the binning of the Air Departure Tax.

The capital’s airport saw a significant slow-down in passenger growth in 2019, with passenger numbers growing by just 0.5 per cent compared to 4.9 per cent in 2018.

Mr Dewar said: “Again we welcome the growth we’ve seen over the past month and almost 1.5 million people shows there is a strong draw to Edinburgh during the summer season.

“We also need to be promoting Scotland as a destination to as many nations as we can as too narrow a focus will see us losing potential visitors and connections, something that is already difficult enough when competing with nations that don’t have to factor in the highest aviation tax in the world.

“We know Air Departure Tax now won’t be delivered in its promised form and that will have an impact on growth at the airport as well as on the economy in general but we need to find alternate options to improve connectivity and support our exports and tourism sector.

“We’re engaging with the Scottish Government to form a plan which will attract new airlines and passengers as well as play a positive role in addressing the climate challenge.”

A spokesman for easyJet said the company is taking action against climate change by flying full, fuel efficient planes and that the new route would provide new connectivity between Edinburgh and Birmingham.

Flybe have run a service between the two cities for several years.

The spokesman said: “We’ve reduced [our carbon emissions] by over 32% since 2000 and our aim is to bring this down further.

“For the longer term we are also working with partners on new technologies to radically reduce the carbon footprint of flying. This includes with Wright Electric, which is working to produce an all-electric plane for short haul flights.”

Public Finance and Digital Economy Minister Kate Forbes said: “Following the First Minister’s declaration of a global climate emergency, the Scottish Government is committed to achieving net zero emissions by 2045 at the latest – earlier than any other UK nation.

“As part of this, we are looking across our range of responsibilities and have come to the conclusion that the economic benefits we had sought through our policy of reducing ADT are not compatible with our new emissions targets.

“We will continue our consultative approach to the development of ADT policy. Promoting connectivity, tourism and investment are priorities for the Scottish Government which we will continue to support.”