Edinburgh and Aberdeen Airports have record 2013 as Glasgow airports struggle; Qatar Airways leads long-haul expansion

LCCs (Jet2.com), regional airlines (airBaltic, Flybe and Europe Airpost) and long-haul airlines (Qatar Airways and US Airways) have all tapped the potential of the Scottish market in the last 12 months to launch new services. While seat capacity from Scotland’s 21 commercial airports is virtually unchanged this August compared to a year ago, the growing number of long-haul services means that ASKs (Available Seat Kilometres) are up 8%.

As voters in Scotland prepare for the big referendum vote on 18 September, anna.aero takes a look this week at how Scotland’s airports are performing at present. Annual passenger data at the country’s four busiest airports shows that after three successive years of decline (2008-2010) passenger numbers have been picking up again since 2010. Figures for 2013 show that demand across these four airports was roughly the same as it was in 2004. Interestingly, while total passenger numbers peaked in 2007, Glasgow International’s traffic peaked in 2006, Glasgow Prestwick peaked in 2007, but Edinburgh and Aberdeen both achieved their best ever years in 2013.

Chart -Major Scottish airports traffic 1995-2013 Annual passengers (millions)

Source: UK CAA.

While Aberdeen and Glasgow International are still owned by Heathrow Airport Holdings (formerly known as BAA), the UK government forced BAA to sell Edinburgh Airport. In April 2012 it was announced that Global Infrastructure Partners (who also own London Gatwick and London City airports) had acquired the airport from BAA. Glasgow Prestwick Airport has also changed hands having been sold by Infratil to the Scottish government for £1 in November 2013.

21 airports with scheduled services in Scotland

While the four biggest airports account for well over 90% of annual passengers at Scotland’s airports, there are currently 17 other airports with scheduled services, with Inverness the fifth busiest airport in 2013, handling just over 600,000 passengers. According to airline schedule data for August 2014, weekly seat capacity at Scottish airports is virtually unchanged from last summer, though ASKs (Available Seat Kilometres) are up 8% thanks in part to the launch of a number of new long-haul services, such as Qatar Airways to Doha (from Edinburgh), United Airlines to Chicago O’Hare (from Edinburgh) and US Airways to Philadelphia (also from Edinburgh).

Chart -Top 15 airlines at Scottish airports Change in weekly seat capacity (Aug 14 v Aug 13) [Weekly departing seats in Aug 14]

Source: Innovata / Diio Mi for w/c 11 August 2014 and w/c 12 August 2013.

Seven of Scotland’s top 15 airlines have cut capacity this summer compared with a year ago, including the four biggest. Ryanair has made the deepest cuts dropping 13 routes and adding just two new ones, from Edinburgh to Oslo Rygge and from Glasgow Prestwick to Knock. However, Ryanair will launch operations from Glasgow International Airport at the end of October, making it the Irish ULCC’s 69th base, with the introduction of seven new services. easyJet’s capacity cut of less than 2% was helped by just one dropped route (Edinburgh to London Southend), while Jet2.com was the fastest-growing carrier among the top 10 airlines, adding five new services from Glasgow and three from Edinburgh, although nearly all of them are served with just a single weekly frequency.

airBaltic, Europe Airpost and Qatar Airways make Scottish debuts

A total of 37 airlines currently offer scheduled services across Scotland’s 21 airports. Airlines operating flights this August who were not present in the Scottish market 12 months ago include airBaltic, CityJet, Citywing, Europe Airpost and Qatar Airways. While long-haul routes grab the media attention, Scottish airports have also seen a number of interesting new short/medium-haul services from a range of airlines in the last 12 months.

  • bmi regional: Aberdeen to Kristiansund (28 August 2013) and Oslo (28 October 2013).
  • airBaltic: Aberdeen to Riga on 30 March 2014.
  • CityJet: Glasgow (20 January) and Edinburgh (30 March) to Cardiff, replacing Flybe’s suspended services.
  • Citywing: Glasgow to the Isle Of Man on 31 March 2014.
  • Europe Airpost: Paris CDG to Halifax in Canada with a stop in Glasgow on 4 July 2014.
  • Flybe: Dundee to London Stansted on 30 March 2014.
  • Ryanair: Glasgow Prestwick to Knock on 1 June 2014.
  • SAS: Aberdeen to Oslo on 30 March 2014, and Edinburgh to Oslo on 10 April 2014.
  • Edelweiss Air: Edinburgh to Zurich on 12 March.


  1. Gary Reavely says:

    Edinburgh’s fantastic run of recent new carrier and route gains is down to many reasons however a fundamental one is its new owners – GIP who saw the huge potential, they have invested in a great management team under Gordon Dewar and they have created a fast to react, opportunity seeking culture that was sorely missing under the previous regime.

  2. Jon Faro says:

    To describe Glasgow Airport as “struggling” is bewildering, if not down-right misleading. Firstly, Glasgow Airport has just recorded its 18th month of consecutive growth, its also worth noting that in this time Edinburgh Airport has recorded many months of decline.

    2014 has seen an incredible 36 new routes from Glasgow Airport announced (with more to be announced before the year-end), some of these routes having already started but significantly, most including the ones which will generate double-digit growth for the airport are yet to launch. Amongst the new routes starting later this year and in 2015 are Ryanair’s 7 new routes to Europe and Scotland’s only direct flights to Katowice (Wizz Air), Las Vegas (Thomas Cook and Virgin Atlantic), Marrakech (Easyjet and Thomson), Montego Bay (Thomson) and Poznan (Wizz Air).

    Ryanair’s new winter routes will alone add an additional 1 million seats to the airport. The airline is expected to announce a huge summer schedule from Scotland’s largest city which could see Ryanair carrying around 2.5million passengers per year from Glasgow Airport. On top of this, Wizz Air will more than double their capacity from Glasgow. Currently Wizz Air offer four flights a week to Poland. This will increase to nine flights a week with new routes to Katowice (twice-weekly) and Poznan (twice-weekly) along with adding an additional third weekly flight to Warsaw.

    Eastern Europe will be at the heart of Glasgow Airport’s rapid growth for 2015 as alongside Rryanair and Wizz Air’s expansion, Jet2 will switch their struggling Edinburgh to Prague service to Scotland’s largest city in a bid to lure more passengers to the Czech capital. How can Glasgow be described as “struggling” when airlines are switching their flights away from Edinburgh to Glasgow, much like Lufthansa did a year ago and are now reaping the benefits having doubled their passenger numbers to Düsseldorf.

    The phenomenal growth set for Glasgow Airport will not only come from Ryanair and Wizz Air flights to Eastern Europe. Alongside Prague, Jet2 will launch a further 4 routes from Glasgow (with more still to be announced for 2015) with the basing of their 6th aircraft at Glasgow Airport. Considering Jet2’s Glasgow base is now more than 25% larger than the airlines Edinburgh base, despite having only been opened a few years ago, again how can Glasgow be described as “struggling” when a new base has opened and over-taken Edinburgh in just a couple of years?!

    With the combined growth of Ryanair, Wizz Air and Jet2 set to add an additional 2 to 2.5 million passengers per year to Glasgow, enough reclaim Glasgow its rightful status as Scotland’s busiest airport, its also worth noting easyJet and Thomson will both add flights to Marrakech (not served from any other Scottish airport). Easyjet have recently added new routes from Glasgow to Kos and Split too and both Thomas Cook and Virgin Atlantic will launch direct flights to Las Vegas (again, a destination not served direct from any other Scottish airport).

    With this significant increase in flights, destinations and capacity, Glasgow could quite easily become Britain’s fastest growing major airport in 2015 and could also reclaim its rightful position as Scotland’s busiest airport. In summary, to describe Glasgow Airport as “struggling” is bewildering, if not down-right misleading!

    • Hi Jon. Thanks for the detailed notes on Glasgow airport. Between 1995 and 2013 GLA’s annual pax grew by a total of 36%, while during the same period EDI’ pax grew by 199% as it passed GLA to become Scotland’s busiest airport (in 2007). As you say, GLA continues to attract new services and in the first seven months of 2014 passenger numbers have risen by 3.7%. However, EDI’s passenger numbers have grown by 4.7% during the same period so I think it may be a bit longer than you hope before GLA reclaims its position as Scotland’s busiest airport.

Comments are closed