DIRECT flights to long-haul destinations such as the Middle East may be on the cards for passengers using Edinburgh Airport under its new owners.
The city airport is to be bought by Global Infrastructure Partners (GIP), an independent infrastructure fund manager which runs Gatwick and London City airports.
GIP will pay £807.2 million to take over Edinburgh from current operator BAA, which was forced to sell off the airport by the Competition Commission. GIP said it hoped to complete the deal by the end of May.
It is understood that GIP will aim to offer a greater range of international flights from and to Edinburgh in the long term.
Among the improvements made at Gatwick Airport since GIP took it took over in 2009 is an average security queue waiting time of less than two minutes and a reduction in complaints by 15 per cent.
Laurie Price, director of aviation strategy at consultancy Mott MacDonald, said: “In the longer term, if you look at what has happened where GIP have taken over two other airports in the UK there has been quite a change and a significant level of investment and some significant improvement in the facilities offered. From that point of view, then people might notice some changes.”
GIP took over London City in 2006 and then bought Gatwick from BAA for £1.51 billion three years later.
Concerned at BAA’s monopoly position regarding its ownership of UK airports, the Competition Commission ruled that BAA must sell Gatwick and Stansted and one of either Glasgow or Edinburgh airports. BAA is disputing the Stansted ruling, having opted to keep Glasgow and sell Edinburgh.
Adebayo Ogunlesi, chairman and managing partner of GIP, said: “Edinburgh Airport is a high-quality infrastructure asset. Its acquisition is a landmark deal for GIP.”
Michael McGhee, the GIP partner leading the acquisition, added: “We plan to work closely with the airlines to improve customer service and quality.”
News of the Edinburgh sale was welcomed by politicians, including Edinburgh Western MSP Colin Keir.
He said: “The sale of the airport will increase competition and I believe this will be reflected in passenger numbers using the airport in years to come.
“This is good news for the city, business and all passengers using the airport.”
Lothians MSP Gavin Brown added that it was “an important development and the start of a new chapter in Edinburgh Airport’s history”, while Labour MP for Edinburgh North and Leith, Mark Lazarowicz, said: “The takeover by GIP could mean more vigorous competition between Edinburgh and Glasgow airports, with potentially significant benefits to passengers.”
Chief executive of BAA, Colin Matthews, added: “We wish the new owners every success and are confident the airport will continue to flourish.”
GIP has re-energised Gatwick as an airport and we expect to see the same resurgence of energy going into Edinburgh.
Now with the gloves off as it were and being a stand-alone company, we might see an increased effort to attract new airlines.
The speeding up of the security process is something in particular that GIP has done at Gatwick and we will probably see some repetition at Edinburgh.