Glasgow best for short security queues

Standing in long queues at security is a major bugbear for any airport user, particularly for families travelling in the school holidays. Perhaps we should all move north of the border because Glasgow Airport has recently been revealed as the gold standard when it comes to clearing security quickly.

A survey was carried out on seven major UK airports by the Civil Aviation Authority, during which time 27,000 passengers had their say. The airports surveyed were London’s Heathrow, Gatwick, Luton and Stansted, Scotland’s Edinburgh and Glasgow, plus Manchester.

The average wait to pass through security screening at Glasgow was a mere 3.3 minutes, as compared with 6 minutes at fellow Scottish airport Edinburgh, and 9 minutes at Stansted.

99.6% of Glasgow passengers waited less than 10 minutes and 97.3% less than 5 minutes. At Stansted only 80% of passengers clear security in under 10 minutes.

The length of time that screening takes depends on the number of passengers having to remove items such as jackets and belts, as well of course as the number of items of luggage needing to be screened, to say nothing of the number of travellers who, years on, still seem to be confused about the restriction on taking liquids through security!

Glasgow Airport has invested millions of pounds on security after an attempted terrorist attack in 2007 when a jeep, packed with explosives, was driven at the terminal building. A new hub was opened a year later and in 2012 Glasgow was the first airport in the country to introduce a state-of-the-art scanning system for boarding passes.

The good news for Glasgow comes a month after it recorded its busiest July for 6 years, due in part to the Commonwealth Games.

The airport hit the news again this week with the announcement of four new routes to Prague, Antalya in Turkey, Malta and Larnaca in Cyprus.


The BAA urges tax rethink

The BAA, owner of Glasgow, Edinburgh, and Aberdeen airports, has called for Westminster to surrender aviation tax control to Holyrood, the seat of the Scottish Government. The move, which has also drawn the support of Infratil, the company behind Prestwick Airport, would allow MPs to control the value of Air Passenger Duty (APD) in Scotland.

APD costs Scotland £77m in lost tourism every year, according to the BAA. The much-maligned tax has been criticised by Sir Richard Branson, Ryanair chief, Michael O’Leary, travel organisation ABTA, and “more than half” of all long-haul travellers, who say that APD will eventually make regular flights unfeasible. Adding to APD’s list of detractors are Thomson, Jet2, and UK flag-carrying airline, British Airways.

Jet2 boss, Philip Meeson, claims that the government is "hell bent" on ruining the summer holiday season for British travellers.

Critics believe that the Coalition doesn’t fully appreciate the impact of APD on the tourism industry or that the lucrative levy is blinding cash-strapped MPs to the consequences of heavy taxation. The latter point is perhaps best demonstrated via an article in the Independent, which notes that MPs have recently consulted on a further rise to APD. Scotland’s annual loses could potentially hit (and surpass) the £110m mark, if the motion is passed.

Edinburgh Airport chief, Kevin Brown, said that Scotland is not looking for an ‘easy ride’, regarding aviation taxes. “We are not saying we should not be taxed, only that any taxation is fair and proportionate." Mr. Brown’s counterpart at Glasgow Airport, Amanda McMillan, was concerned that APD could force airlines to spurn Scottish airports, in favour of hubs that are not subjected to the “continued rise in APD”, such as those in Holland and Belgium.

Scotland’s location in Europe means that air travel is particularly important in forging links with major economic centres on the continent, such as Brussels and Frankfurt. However, the country is presently losing millions of passengers to APD, alleged to be one of the highest transport taxes on the planet.

APD generates £2bn a year for Westminster. The figure could increase by 50% (to £3bn) over the next few years, if Virgin Atlantic chief, Sir Richard Branson is to be believed.


Jet2 to expand at Glasgow – again

Jet2
’s seemingly endless potential for expansion has resulted in the creation of eight new routes at Glasgow Airport since April 2011. Now, just two months after the Yorkshire carrier launched its first flight from the Abbotsinch hub, Jet2 has announced that it will add a further five new destinations from Glasgow, beginning in March 2012.

The airline, which has also expanded its services at East Midlands and Manchester airports, celebrated its latest investment by creating a new – and rather odd – dish, the haggis paella. Whether the culinary ‘experiment’ whetted the appetite of local travellers is debatable, but Jet2 claims to have already sold 150,000 seats on its summer 2012 flights.

Flights to Barcelona, Malaga, and Murcia in mainland Spain, and Ibiza in the Balearic Islands will begin next year, with one-way travel costing in the region of £29.99. Jet2 will fly to Barcelona three times a week, while Murcia and Malaga will be served two and four times a week, respectively. A weekly flight to Lanzarote in the Canary Islands will take off at the same time, albeit at the slightly higher price of £49.99.

Jet2’s fifth new route from Glasgow, Ibiza, will begin in May 2012, operating on a twice-weekly basis for the duration of the summer season. Tickets begin at £39.99.

“There’s no doubt this is an exciting time for us at Glasgow Airport”, said Jet2 chief, Ian Doubtfire. “We’re really pleased with bookings so far. The feedback from passengers (has been) very positive.”

Mr. Doubtfire indicated that capacity would improve by 20% on existing routes from Glasgow to Tenerife in the Canary Islands, Faro in Portugal, Alicante in Spain, and to Majorca in the Mediterranean Sea. The extra seats, in tandem with Jet2’s new routes, have been welcomed in Glasgow. Local Councillor, Gordon Matheson, referred to the airline’s expansion as “great news”, while Francois Bourienne, chief at Glasgow Airport, said that Jet2 “should be congratulated”.

Jet2 currently offers 13 routes from Glasgow, including a trans-Atlantic flight to New York.


Dutch boost for Glasgow

Budget airline, easyJet, is to follow KLM’s example by adding a new route from the UK to the capital of Holland, Amsterdam. However, while the Dutch carrier focused on bringing Durham Tees Valley and Aberdeen airports closer to the continent, easyJet will expand its schedules in Scotland’s second city, Glasgow, by an extra seven flights per week.

Hugh Aitken, easyJet’s chief in Scotland, said that the addition comes at a time when demand for flights to Holland is soaring. “Amsterdam will be our 15th route from Glasgow. (The flight) further demonstrates our commitment to the city and the region."

An earlier route from Glasgow to Amsterdam was cancelled six years ago, but easyJet does not expect its latest investment to share the same fate as its predecessor. The tangerine airline says that more than 85,000 passengers will use the route during its first year, a claim supported by the news that the three main Scottish airports, Glasgow, Edinburgh, and Aberdeen, recently experienced a 5.8% increase in passenger numbers.

Dutch flag-carrier, KLM, already offers five flights between Glasgow and its native Amsterdam. However, according to Mr. Aitken, easyJet has no plans to compete directly with the blue and white airline. KLM’s routes from the UK to Holland feed passengers into Schiphol’s network of long-haul flights, whereas easyJet is hoping that its customers will opt to holiday within Amsterdam itself. The difference is subtle, but easyJet’s plans for its new route are merely hiding the fact that the Luton-based carrier does not offer any long-haul flights from Schiphol, or indeed, from any airport, and will in fact be taking passengers to KLM’s doorstep.

It should be noted that a connection between Scotland and Amsterdam is just as important for Dutch people as it is for Scots. Tourism website, Visit Scotland, claims that Loch Lomond, the Highlands, and the Trossachs National Park are very popular with travellers from Holland, who are “excellent repeat visitors”, to quote Aoife Desmond, manager of the website. Gordon Matheson, Glasgow City Council chief, was equally keen to promote the Scottish city as a destination for European visitors.

EasyJet’s new route begins on October 31 2011.


Glasgow gets second flight to New York

Package holiday company, Jet2Holidays, is to introduce a route from Glasgow Airport to New York City. The expansion, which was celebrated at the hub with “American style” cheerleaders, will become Jet2’s ninth direct flight from Glasgow, and its first to the US from the Abbotsinch airport, when the route takes off on November 17 2011.

Jet2’s time at Glasgow has been brief, but profitable, according to Amanda McMillan, director at the airport. The airline has gone from “strength to strength” in Scotland, despite arriving just over a month ago, on March 31 2011.

Other than increasing competition, Jet2’s function at the hub is debatable. The carrier offers routes to a number of ‘sun and sea’ resorts, such as Alicante and Palma de Mallorca. However, with the exception of a service to Nice in France, Jet2’s new routes are duplicates of already existing flights.

Flights from Glasgow to Palma, for example, are offered by no less than six different airlines, including Thomson, Thomas Cook, and easyJet. Jet2 is ostensibly relying on its “friendly low fares” to elevate it above the local competition.

Jet2Holidays is providing return flights to Newark Liberty Airport from £599 per person. The package includes three-star accommodation, and a variety of other benefits, including in-flight meals and free airport car parking. The route is being sold on the strength of New York’s popularity as a shopping destination, especially during the festive period. Glasgow Airport’s website claims that the Big Apple has 3,492 fashion stores and 4,000 street vendors.

Philip Meeson, chief at Jet2, was full of confidence in his airline’s new route, “I urge people to book now. Breaks are set to go faster than you can shout ‘Taxi’!” Mr. Meeson said that the Yorkshire carrier’s new service “highlights our continued investment in Glasgow”.


Jet2 arrives at Glasgow

Glasgow Airport is enjoying its third consecutive month of growth, due in part to the arrival of Yorkshire-based airline, Jet2. The carrier has introduced routes from the Scottish hub to seven destinations, with an eighth due to begin operating later this year.

According to the Evening Times, a Scottish newspaper, the number of people choosing to fly from Glasgow Airport increased by 11,298 in March 2011, to 485,198 travellers. Demand for international flights climbed by 3.2%, while the popularity of domestic routes was up 2% over the figures for the same month last year. The news paints a defiant picture of Glasgow, which recently had to contend with the loss of a BMI route to Heathrow Airport in London. The cancellation, said airport boss, Amanda McMillan, was “offset” by the arrival of Jet2.

The budget carrier has begun flying from Glasgow to Alicante in Spain, Majorca in the Balearic Islands, Faro in Portugal, and Tenerife in the Canary Islands. Routes to Nice in France, Dalaman in Turkey, and Paphos in Cyprus have also been added by the silver and red airline, while a winter service to Geneva in Switzerland will start on December 23 2011.

Jet2’s director, Ian Doubtfire, referred to recent developments in Glasgow as “very exciting”. Mr. Doubtfire noted that the airline had spent two years planning for the expansion, and six months hiring 150 new employees, including pilots. The Yorkshire carrier has also begun preparations for a second expansion at Glasgow during 2012, which could create even more employment opportunities in the Scottish city.

Glasgow City Councillor, Gordon Matheson, was keen to attract foreign business to the region, saying “there are passengers from Nice who are flying to Glasgow for either a weekend break or business purposes. This is great for the economy and a great boost for the airport".

Jet2 expects 300,000 people to use the new Glasgow routes during summer 2011.


BMI is ‘most punctual airline’

BMI Regional is the most punctual scheduled airline in the UK, according to independent website, flightontime.info. The results mark the sixth time that Regional has retained the accolade, shrugging off competition from rival airlines, such as Ryanair, Air France, and British Airways (BA).

According to the airline’s website, BMI Regional offers 13 destinations from airports in Scotland and the North of England. The carrier wears the blue and white livery of British Midland International, and provides predominantly domestic services. BMI Regional is, therefore, very similar to BA CityFlyer, an airline that operates out of London City Airport. Both CityFlyer and BMI Regional favour Embraer jets, as opposed to the larger Boeing and Airbus planes operated by their parent companies.

During 2010, the average delay on a BMI Regional flight was 7.1 minutes, compared to 13.7 minutes with Ryanair, and an embarrassing 35.5 minutes with Leeds-based airline, Jet2. The most punctual carriers after Regional were Eastern Airways (average delay of 8.3 minutes), CityJet (8.8mins), VLM (8.9mins), and KLM (9.3mins). Wallowing in the doldrums, but above Jet2 in 35th place, were Monarch Scheduled (30.4mins), Virgin Atlantic (26.2mins), and Spanish carrier, Iberia (25.2mins). Overall, the larger airlines operating out of UK airports performed poorly against companies that could hardly be considered rivals, in terms of fleet size and passenger numbers.

BMI Regional’s penchant for promptness is not confined to its own aeroplanes, however. The carrier’s parent, British Midland International, was the most punctual airline at Heathrow Airport in 2010, according to Reuters, with almost 80% of flights experiencing little or no delays. Surprisingly, the results for both surveys included statistics from April and December 2010, months that were affected by the eruption of Eyjafjallajokull and heavy snowfall, respectively.


Supreme Court rules on BAA monopoly

The British Airports Authority’s (BAA) monopoly over UK aviation looks set to be broken, after the Supreme Court ruled that London Stansted and one of either Edinburgh or Glasgow airports must be sold to increase competition in the industry.

Nearly three years ago, the Competition Commission demanded that the BAA relinquish its hold on three of its British airports, citing a need to “kick-start” airport-to-airport rivalry. Christopher Clarke, head of the commission’s investigation into the BAA, said that there was “no competition at all” between UK hubs in March 2009. Nine months later, in December, the BAA-owned Gatwick Airport was sold to investment firm, Global Infrastructure Partners.

The BAA was suspicious. The aviation giant complained of “apparent bias” in the sale of the Crawley hub, given that a member of the Competition Commission, Peter Moizer, was involved with one of the BAA’s biggest rivals, Manchester Airports Group (MAG). The Competition Appeals Tribunal upheld the appeal, and any further sales were suspended.

In October 2010, the saga came full circle, when the Court of Appeal ruled in favour of the Competition Commission, and overturned the BAA’s appeal of the previous year. The BAA remains adamant, however, that the circumstances that led to the order to sell in 2009 are no longer valid, citing the government’s refusal to consider any runway expansions in the southeast as a new variable in the case.

The Supreme Court refused to hear the BAA’s latest plea in February 2011, consigning Stansted and one of the Scottish airports to the saleroom. The remaining BAA-owned hubs, Aberdeen, Southampton, and Heathrow, remain unaffected, but the news of the Supreme Court ruling will come as a blow to the company. The number of airports under direct BAA control could be reduced to four within the next few years, down from seven in 2009.

In the UK, the BAA’s biggest competitors are Peel Airports, with three hubs, including Liverpool John Lennon, and MAG, with four. MAG currently owns Manchester, East Midlands, Humberside, and Bournemouth airports.


Glasgow-Heathrow route in doubt

British Midland International
(BMI) has announced that its five-time daily route between Glasgow Airport and Heathrow, London, could face the chop, prompting fears about the future of Scottish industry. The airline, which is based at Castle Donnington, says that rising passenger fees at Heathrow, equating to a £7 increase over last year, are partly responsible for the bleak forecast.

Whilst BMI has not said when the route will be axed, an educated guess would be late March or early April, when Heathrow introduces the £7 hike in the domestic passenger charge. The price increase, announced in December, was previously described by the airline as “unreasonably discriminating” against travellers, and an “outrage.” BMI intimated that Heathrow was placing high charges on domestic flights to pander to long-haul carriers, such as Emirates and British Airways (BA).

However, even if passenger fees were kept at their current rate of £13.43 after April 1, BMI would still lose upwards of £1m a month on its Glasgow-Heathrow flights. The airline referred to the route as “weaker,” but withheld any information that might explain why the connection was failing. Competition from BA is a likely culprit, as the two airlines operate the same route from Glasgow.

Stuart Patrick, of the Glasgow Chambers of Commerce, said that Heathrow’s links to international airports are the route’s main attraction, and the removal of the connection would leave Scots with “no choice” regarding their choice of airline. Stuart Patrick also noted that Heathrow’s capacity problems meant that there would be no free aircraft slots available for another airline to pick up the route. BA would be effectively invulnerable from competition at Glasgow.

Despite the doom and gloom, BMI says that “no decision” regarding underperforming routes has yet been made. Scottish transport minister, Keith Brown, is hoping to capitalise on BMI’s hesitation by asking Westminster to help support the airline, or take steps to ensure that Glasgow does not become isolated from the UK’s busiest airport.


BAA coughs up £11m for Glasgow overhaul

The British Airports Authority (BAA) could find itself accused of favouritism this year, after the aviation giant announced a £11.2m redevelopment fund for Glasgow Airport, less than a month after the Abbotsinch hub struck a deal with US-based firm, Delaware North, to refurbish the airport’s food court.

Glasgow is the BAA’s fourth largest airport in the UK, after Heathrow, Stansted, and fellow Scot, Edinburgh, with annual traffic of 6-7m people. The hub’s main terminal, opened in 1966, retains a number of original features that have become a hindrance in recent years, rather than a quaint novelty. The BAA, says a press release on Glasgow’s website, is proposing a “major” overhaul of the Scottish airport, lasting up to five years, in a bid to modernise the forty-year-old facility.

The heating system, an essential part of huge lofty structures, is to be stripped out, and replaced with an energy-efficient “boiler plant,” costing £2.5m. Old lights and cracked flooring will be thrown out the terminal doors, seating will be replaced, and new retail outlets will be lured to the airport. A total of £4.5m will be spent on keeping travellers warm and illuminated while they wait for their flight.

On the airport’s ‘airside,’ preparations are being made to modify the taxiway. Glasgow has not mentioned what form the £2m upgrade will take, but it is likely that existing surfaces will be re-laid, possibly to accommodate heavier, ‘greener,’ aircraft. Runway approach lights, which assist inbound pilots, will be refurbished, whilst a number of aircraft stands will also receive makeovers, making loading and unloading faster.

Amanda McMillan, chief at Glasgow Airport, noted that the BAA’s multi-million pound investment would be spent on ensuring the “smooth, efficient operation” of airport business, and helping travellers to “relax” before their flight. However, it is likely that the BAA’s generosity is designed to bring Glasgow back ‘up to scratch.’ The airport lost around a million passengers during 2009/10, due to snow, volcanic ash, and the recession.

“We have continued to invest for the long term,” explained Amanda McMillan. “I am confident that we will see a return to growth in 2011.” Glasgow’s mission has been bolstered by the announcement of a “massive” expansion by Leeds-based carrier, Jet2, and extra flights from Icelandair and Thomas Cook, among others.