Edinburgh-Dubai is “Skyscanner Unserved Route of the Week” with 320,000 searches; Emirates’ next UK operation??

Emirates…the 4th bridge? Earlier this month 50,000 poeple marched to celebrate the opening of the Queensferry Crossing, Edinburgh’s brand new, 2.7km “third-Forth bridge” – meanwhile six times this amount of travellers are annually searching Skyscanner looking for a direct route to Dubai. (Editor’s note: Skyscanner is headquartered in Edinburgh.)

With over 320,000 searches in the last 12 months, a potential city pair from Edinburgh to Dubai has been identified as this week’s “Skyscanner-anna.aero Unserved Route of Week” – a powerful analysis based on aspirational data captured from the Skyscanner.net flight comparison site used by +60 million unique visitors per month. “We have identified that 14,000 indirect passengers per year are travelling between Edinburgh and Dubai,” states the Scottish airport’s Aviation Director Jonathan Rayner. “Our data also indicates a total unstimulated market potential of 47,000 passengers.”

Source: Skyscanner.

anna.aero encourages Emirates or Norwegian to net this city pair

Skyscanner demand on this week’s unserved route shows a significant bias towards the Edinburgh end of the city pair, with an 88/12 split, so on this basis we looked at potential carriers at the Scottish origin first. According to OAG schedule data for the week commencing 12 September, the #1 carrier capacity-wise at Edinburgh of its 33 serving airlines is easyjet (25% share), with Scotland’s busiest airport also being the LCC’s 12th biggest base overall, and its fifth largest in terms of weekly seats in the UK – behind London Gatwick, London Luton, Bristol and Belfast International. Despite a robust network of 36 destinations from Edinburgh this summer, it is highly unlikely that easyJet is going to be launching services to Dubai in the short-term. The same can be said of the airport’s second-largest airline, which is Ryanair (18% share).

A glance further down Edinburgh’s roll-call of serving carriers reveals that Norwegian is in sixth spot in terms of weekly capacity (3.8% share). The LCC’s current network from the airport boasts nine routes – three of which are long-haul, but served by its 737 fleet – namely its US services to Providence, Stewart and Hartford. At 5,193 kilometres, the sector from Edinburgh to Stewart is the longest of its three US flights flown by the single-aisle type used by Norwegian. The potential sector length to Dubai is slightly longer at 5,784 kilometres, which could well be out of range even for the LCC’s new 737 MAX 8s. While Norwegian is presently not flying to Dubai, it does operate winter services from Copenhagen, Helsinki and Stockholm Arlanda. However, with sector lengths ranging between 4,500 and 4,800 kilometres, they too are flown by its 737 fleet. On this basis, it would seem unlikely that Norwegian is going start a route to Dubai in the near future, unless of course it decides to base one of its 787-8s or -9s at Edinburgh. However, if there was one carrier which could potentially ‘disrupt’ Emirates with a low frequency point-to-point operation into Dubai, it would be Norwegian, especially given its current market strategy. “28% [c.33,000] of all Emirates’ Glasgow-Dubai passengers travel to/from the Edinburgh catchment area,” adds Rayner.

Faical Allou Skyscanner’s Business Development Manager says: “Edinburgh serves 7% of the traffic from the catchment (50km around the airport) going to Dubai. With better service, such as a non-stop operation, the traffic could grow by a huge 1357%.”

Contemplating the Dubai end of the route, unsurprisingly the airport’s #1 carrier is Emirates, commanding 64% of weekly seats. It should be noted that the airline already serves six airports in the UK – London Heathrow, London Gatwick, Manchester, Birmingham, Newcastle and nearby Glasgow. With its long-established route to Scotland’s second city just 80 kilometres away down the M8, and the fact that the two other MEB3 carriers – Etihad Airways (five times weekly) and Qatar Airways (daily) – both already serve Edinburgh, it will not be an easy decision for Emirates to commence operations to the Scottish capital. However, all three MEB3 carriers manage to co-exist together at Heathrow and Manchester, so a decision to do the same in Edinburgh would therefore not be unprecedented in the UK market. With this Skyscanner information now being made public, this could well be the last piece of compelling data needed for Emirates to make that positive decision.

Heathrow, Doha dominate transfer market

The seasonality profile of the Edinburgh to Dubai search data is by far and away the most extreme seen in this feature, however the reasons for it are clear. The lowest month for demand in the 12 months to the end-June 17, was indeed June 2017. This month typically produces the lowest traffic volumes on most Emirates routes to the UK (and perhaps across its entire of Northern Europe network), as the weather in the UAE and the Middle East is normally at its hottest in this month, which tends to act as an disincentive for travellers from this part of Europe. Coupled with the fact that Ramadan, the holiest month in the Islamic calendar fell largely in June this year, search data in this month also took another hit. According to OAG Traffic Analyser, because there is no direct service, the top three connecting options chosen by those passengers who did book travel between Edinburgh and Dubai in the last 12 months indicates that the majority of connecting travellers used Heathrow (40%), Doha (34% – and an indicator of how much damage is being done by the current Qatar crisis), and Amsterdam (8.6%). In total 19 different airports were used by passengers to travel between the two cities.

Indeed, an O&D that is not served by a non-stop flight will typically display a low purchase rate and low traffic. In this instance Skyscanner’s Travel Insight indicates a monthly average of 5.9% for the Edinburgh to Dubai route (see graph below). Therefore, if there was a Edinburgh to Dubai route, and if bookings performed in line with the “Skyscanner market average” for direct services at both airports (7.1%), the airline operating this route could immediately expect an improved purchase rate of 21%, without any increased marketing spend. However, with over 320,000 annual searches in the past year, a daily service should be immediately viable for the airline selecting to start this potential city pair. “DIAGEO, Lloyds Bank, AEGEON, Cisco and BP are some of the companies with bases in both Edinburgh and Dubai. Indeed, on average, 11% of passengers between Dubai and Edinburgh are travelling in premium class,” concludes Rayner.

Source: Skyscanner.

About this anna.aero analysis and Skyscanner data

“Unserved Route of the Week” is a cooperation between anna.aero and the B2B branch of the Skyscanner.net consumer flight comparison site and is a new kind of analysis harnessing an entirely new resource: the amazing power of the aspirational data captured from Skyscanner.net flight comparison site which has +60 million unique visitors per month.

Skyscanner” packages this amazing B2C data into a suite of business products which offer comprehensive data solutions – our specific need to identify unserved routes uses the Skyscanner Travel Insight product, a comprehensive, unique ‘big data’ set that can accurately predict future demand by telling you where 60 million real living-and-breathing travellers actually want to fly to. (And bear in mind that there are other significant search volumes that could also be added to the Skyscanner totals – from dedicated airline websites, competitive search engines etc, underlining the value of Skyscanner data as a conservative indicator of market route demand.)

Check next week’s newsletter for another great anna.aero-Skyscanner “Unserved Route of the Week” – or browse in anna.aero’s Route Shop where there are 3,100 more unserved routes.



  1. Ross Clark says:

    My opinion, and indeed experience, is that many people from Edinburgh wishing to go to or through Dubai, will simply make the 80km journey to GLA by whatever means, and pick up the Emirates flights from there. What we don’t know is the geographical catchment for the GLA flights.

    • Ross Clark says:

      Emirates provides an option in its booking system to allow people to get to and from Abu Dhabi, via a connecting bus (code ZVJ). A possible way to develop the business would be to do the same for the Glasgow rotations, with a direct bus from Edinburgh to Glasgow Airport. Thoughts?

  2. Gary Reavely says:

    Hindsight is a wonderful thing, EK clearly had a good look at EDI in the past but it would appear they they opted for NCL instead.
    Had EK bitten the bullet’ at EDI you wonder if it would have put QR ad EY off serving EDI. There is no doubt that EDI offers airlines great two way business year round and the all important premium cabin business is there. Interesting to see if they finally go for it and if so can EDI support all three MEB3 carriers profitably.

  3. GLAflyer says:

    There is absolutely no need for Emirates to entertain thoughts of a flight from EDI. Firstly, EDI’s existing flights to the Middle East are hardly setting the heather alight. Secondly, Emirates fly twice daily to GLA, just 40 miles away.

    Emirates don’t serve many cities worldwide so close together, I cannot see them changing that strategy just to accommodate Edinburgh.

    When Emirates grow in Scotland it’ll be a third daily flight to GLA or by introducing the A380. Rumour has it, an official announcement for the later is “imminent”…

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