THE flagging fortunes of Scotland’s busiest airport look set to be revived following the announcement of five new routes by Easyjet yesterday, which the company said would create some 160 jobs.
The country’s largest airline will connect the capital with Berlin, Hamburg, Copenhagen and Prague from March, with a summer-only service to Dubrovnik, in Croatia, from April.
Flights will be operated by two aircraft being switched to Edinburgh from EasyJet’s base in Madrid, which the airline is closing because of high charges.
The planes, which will bring EasyJet’s Edinburgh fleet to seven, will also operate flights to Reykjavik from March, which it announced last week.
There will be four flights a week to Hamburg and Prague, three to Berlin and Copenhagen, and two to Reykjavik and
The routes, which will increase EasyJet’s total at Edinburgh to 30, are expected to generate 140,000 extra passengers and provide a £90 million boost to the economy.
The news came as Edinburgh’s passenger numbers dipped for a fourth consecutive month, which it blamed on uncertainty over Heathrow flights following the demise of BMI.
The total was down by 2.2 per cent to 880,124 in September – more than the 1.9 per cent drop the previous month.
Rivals Glasgow saw another month of growth, with its total up by 5.6 per cent in September to 736,100. Aberdeen’s was up by 1.4 per cent to 302,900.
EasyJet’s choice of new routes follows consultation with business and tourism groups.
VisitScotland will spend an extra £100,000 on marketing for the Berlin and Hamburg links.
EasyJet is also planning a trade mission to Hamburg with the tourism agency and Scottish Government agency, Scottish Development International.
Germany is Scotland’s biggest European tourism market and its fourth largest export market, worth £1.3 billion a year.
However, rather than create a complete set of new links, half of EasyJet’s latest services will see it compete with other airlines.
It will go head-to-head with Jet2 to Prague and Dubrovnik, and take on both BMI Regional and Norwegian to Copenhagen.
However, Hugh Aitken, EasyJet’s head of Scotland, denied this was a predatory move.
He said: “We believe we can increase the number of people coming to Scotland on the routes, which has been falling over the last two years because of reduced flight capacity.”
Welcoming the EasyJet expansion, Deputy First Minister and infrastructure secretary Nicola Sturgeon said: “This is a major endorsement and vote of confidence in Edinburgh and Scotland, and we are working behind the scenes to deliver even more direct routes.”
Edinburgh airport chief executive, Gordon Dewar, said it was “committed to extending Scotland’s reach across Europe and the world.”