International flights on cards if Virgin wins short-haul routes
The company has suggested it would consider following a similar model to Glasgow, where it now runs hugely successful routes between Scotland and Orlando, Florida.
Mr Ridgeway also warned that fares between Edinburgh and Heathrow would rise and flights be further reduced unless a second airline was allowed to compete with British Airways over the route.
Virgin Atlantic yesterday confirmed it had bid for new short-haul services between Heathrow, Edinburgh and Aberdeen and met with first minister Alex Salmond for talks over the move to Scotland.
“Virgin Atlantic is offering to bring a very strong brand and a very strong reputation to Edinburgh and Aberdeen and create a second choice, to connect these key cities to our network in Heathrow,” said Mr Ridgway.
“This is about connecting people in Scotland and Edinburgh with the rest of the world. We’re not really selling Edinburgh-Heathrow, we’re selling Edinburgh-Shanghai, or Edinburgh-Delhi or Edinburgh-Cape Town.”
Although the firm plans to focus on short-haul flights it eventually intends to roll out more international flights. In Glasgow, where it operates long-haul only, it began with six flights per year to Florida and extended to its current 66.
EU officials will make a decision on the London routes in November with a second airline option operating from next spring. Aer Lingus is also bidding for the route.
International Airlines Group – which owns British Airways – took over regional carrier British Midland International in April but was forced to surrender bmi’s routes in Edinburgh and Aberdeen due to competition laws.
Mr Ridgway said: “Along with Edinburgh, British Airways is the sole operator in Glasgow and as a result the number of services has already dropped and fares have risen.
“We know from speaking to the First Minister and the transport minister that they are very worried about the current situation.
Mr Ridgway added that the trams – due in summer 2014 – are important to Edinburgh Airport’s growth.
He added: “It’s going to make Edinburgh airport better and stronger. It’s all about connecting to the centre and having an efficient transport network.”