THE chief executive of Edinburgh Airport has called for greater support for the aviation sector as it comes out of the pandemic after a standalone move by Ryanair to increase its presence in the Scottish capital.
Gordon Dewar said a $1 billion investment in Edinburgh that will bring its biggest summer schedule to date at the airport is not being replicated across other airlines so far.
He said tax breaks could help airlines and airports “trade a way” out of the pandemic, which decimated international air travel.
Ryanair said its investment that will support 300 highly paid aviation jobs and 3,000 indirect jobs at Edinburgh could potentially be doubled as it underlined opposition to Airport Passenger Duty which it says leaves the UK at an unnecessary disadvantage.
Ryanair said its investment in Edinburgh of $1b is based on the cost of its 10 aircraft, five of which will be Boeing 737 8-200 “Gamechanger” aircraft, which deliver four per cent more seats, burn 16% less fuel and create 40% less noise emissions, and staffing.
Its 65 routes include eight new destinations to Bari, Cork, Madrid, Marrakesh, Nimes, Palermo, Paris, and Santiago.
Ryanair will operate 250 weekly flights for summer 2022, which is 50 more than pre pandemic summer 2019.
It said it aims to increase its annual passenger by 50 per cent to 225 million a year in the next five years.
Mr Dewar welcomed the investment but added so far it is the exception. He said “Our governments, both Scottish and the UK, don’t seem to have understood about where we are in that recovery cycle.
“Not only have other countries not got that tax but they have also introduced levels of support.
“All we are asking for is to create a trading environment where airlines like Ryanair can come and exploit and get back to the connectivity and go beyond it.
“A great example of that would be suspend APD while the recovery happens. It would give people chance to trade a way out of that.
“Certainly the idea that we continue with a high tax on something that has suffered so badly … it does seem like a strange view if you really do value that international connectivity and all it has to offer.”
He added: “Ryanair’s continued expansion at Edinburgh is extremely encouraging and is a huge show of confidence in the Edinburgh market. Aviation will play an important role in the recovery of the Scottish and UK economies and to be in a position where Ryanair are offering more than they did pre-pandemic is a very good place for us to be in, especially when five of the based aircraft will be the quietest and most environmentally friendly in the industry.
“We know there’s a pent-up demand for travel and we want to offer choice to people, which is why we are looking to both retain and grow Edinburgh’s connectivity. We must work with partners including airlines and governments to ensure Scotland is flexible in its approach and is seizing new opportunities that arise.”
READ MORE: Ryanair announces Scottish city’s biggest schedule to date amid $1bn investment
Ryanair reiterated that the UK Government should fully abolish APD for all travel to help deliver growth.
Jason McGuinness, Ryanair’s director of commercial, said: “This larger fleet will deliver 65 routes in total, including eight new routes to exciting destinations.
“What is backboning that (growth) is our aircraft orders during Covid. We increased our aircraft order from 135 to 210 new Gamechanger aircraft.”
He added: “Efficient operations and competitive airport charges provide the foundation from which Ryanair can deliver long-term traffic growth and increased connectivity. We worked closely with our partners in Edinburgh airport to secure this growth and improve the services for those that live, work, or wish to visit the region.
“Ryanair now calls on the UK Government to further support this traffic recovery by scrapping APD completely. The 50% reduction proposed for 2023 is too little, too late for post-covid recovery since APD puts UK airports at a severe cost disadvantage versus their European competitors.”
Mr McGuinness added: “I can’t stress enough how much of a competitive disadvantage APD is putting Scottish airports at.”
Shares in Ryanair closed down slightly, 0.37%, at €17.47.