Glasgow adds summer routes – for 2011

The first week of June produced a snapshot of the typical British summertime – one part sunshine, two parts torrential rain. It should come as no surprise then that many Britons are choosing to holiday abroad this year, rather than risk having their trip to the seaside interrupted by unpredictable weather.

UK airlines capitalise on this mass exodus to the continent and beyond by announcing their summer schedules early. Flybe, for example, unveiled its summer routes out of Leeds-Bradford in October 2009, much to the delight of local travellers. Thomson has done one better this year, however, by unveiling its summer 2011 flight roster a full year early.

Routes from Glasgow to Pula in coastal Croatia, the West African island of Cape Verde, and the tropical paradise of Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic will begin on 14 May and run until the end of October 2011. The destinations should provide travellers with better value for money than the more popular resorts in the European Union.

Thomson, which was recently named ‘Best Leisure Airline’ at the World Airline Awards in Hamburg, Germany, will offer the flights through its package holiday arm. Glasgow Airport director, Amanda McMillan, expects the popularity of all-inclusive holidays to grow over the next few years, ‘Holidaymakers appear to be returning to the traditional package holiday because of the value for money and the choice of destinations they serve,’ Amanda explained. ‘Thomson’s new flights are good news for holidaymakers’. The new destinations are just one of a number of changes expected at Glasgow in the future.

On the 8 June, airport bosses will introduce a £2m scheme designed to reduce congestion and improve access around the Abbotsinch hub. Contractors will redevelop a number of roads in the immediate area, helping to reduce waiting times, and driving vehicle emissions down. The airport hopes that the new road layout will give Glasgow the ‘look and feel’ of a major international hub.

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Glasgow ‘hardest hit’ by ash crisis

The British Airport Authority’s (BAA) monthly traffic figures have revealed the true extent of the disruption caused by the eruption of Icelandic volcano Eyjafjoll.

Despite its newfound infamy, Eyjafjoll has suddenly become very boring. Media coverage of the mountain’s spluttering has been overwhelming, and every second or third press release by UK airlines seems to have something to do with volcanic ash.

The attention is warranted – Eyjafjoll is still coughing at the bleak Icelandic sky, even today – but a month of press reports about stranded passengers, flight cancellations and unhappy airline bosses is enough to make the fineries of UK politics seem very interesting indeed. Of course, the bad news keeps rolling in.

During April, Glasgow Airport lost 29% of its regular flyers to volcanic ash, more than any other BAA airport. Edinburgh and Aberdeen, two of the largest airports in Scotland, lost 28% and 26% of their customers respectively, in what has come to be known as the worst travel crisis since the Second World War.

Southampton Airport achieved top marks for the second month in a row, despite losing 19% of its passengers. Heathrow was down 21% on the same period last year, whilst Stansted lost just over 24% of its customer base. Even distant Naples, BAA’s only continental airport, suffered a slump in passenger numbers during April.

Glasgow’s continuing problems stem from the isolated nature of many of its domestic destinations. The Abbotsinch hub offers flights to Benbecula and Tiree airports on the Outer Hebrides, two sites that have endured frequent closures since Eyjafjoll began erupting in April.


Glasgow celebrates mephedrone bust

A 21-year-old man was arrested last week, after attempting to smuggle 50kg of the drug mephedrone through Glasgow Airport. The substance, which was recently declared illegal, is known colloquially as Meow Meow, and contributed to the deaths of at least two teenagers in March this year.

Mephedrone, not to be confused with methadone, a synthetic painkiller used to reduce withdrawal effects in recovering drug addicts, was known until the beginning of April as a ‘legal high,’ despite growing concern about its misuse. Dealers would sell the drug under the guise of plant food or bath salts, often to young teenagers.

The deaths of a number of people across the world led to an investigation into mephedrone, which ultimately led to its inclusion in the Misuse of Drugs Act as a Class B substance, alongside cannabis, speed, and codeine. The recent mephedrone bust at Glasgow Airport was one of the first arrests of its kind in Scotland.

Officers predict that the street-value of the haul would have been close to £500,000. The drug was intended for an address in Ayrshire, which prompted the search of four properties in the area. Detective Allan Moffat, of the Scottish Crime and Drug Enforcement Agency, was concerned that people may still believe that mephedrone is ‘safe.’

‘Classifying the drug under the Misuse of Drugs Act sends a clear message that the substance is harmful, and it is vital that users understand the risks,’ Detective Moffat explained. The Glasgow incident was Scotland’s fourth mephedrone-related arrest in under a week, after three men were taken into custody during the previous weekend.

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Scotland ‘cut off’ by BA strike

From Friday 19th to Monday 22nd, British Airways (BA) cancelled 238 flights from eleven of its UK airports, including 90% of all scheduled flights to Scotland, as a three-day strike by its cabin crew team entered its final phase.

Glasgow Airport was left with just one flight to the English capital, whereas Aberdeen and Edinburgh were stripped of all but seven and two flights respectively.

The airline loses an estimated £7m for every day that its stewards fail to turn up for work, leading some commentators to believe that BA boss, Willie Walsh, is just being stubborn.

With a second four-day strike pencilled in for the 27th, general workers union, Unite, is confident that BA’s business model is crumbling and an end to its siege of the airline is just around the corner.

Unite has been fighting to prevent BA from cutting jobs and slashing wages. The union has been unable to break the airline in 13 months, however, a testament to either Willie Walsh’s dedication or a stunning example of mule-like inflexibility.

He branded the strike a ‘cynical attack’ on BA’s customers. Gordon Brown called it ‘deplorable’ whilst Unite continued to accuse the airline of looking for a fight.

Early this morning, BA advised all striking staff members that their travel bonuses had been permanently revoked, including entitlements to free or discounted flights. The news will undoubtedly be viewed as an act of desperation by Unite and the British tabloids, but there is currently no reason for BA to back down.

The airline claims that contingency plans are working and the escalating cost of the strike will have minimal effect on the airline’s profits. Unite has promised not to arrange a picket over the Easter holidays, but beyond that, there is no end in sight.


Early Valentine’s Day for Glasgow

Kiss Flights is to add twelve new routes for Glasgow Airport. The news comes just days after Thomas Cook augmented its Scottish schedules with six flights to the continent, helping to repair the hole left by the collapse of Flyglobespan.

Glasgow Airport will be the airline’s first hub outside England. Kiss will operate the new routes on a code share basis with other carriers, including Swedish company, Viking Airlines.

Destinations in Spain, Portugal, Greece and Cyprus in the Mediterranean, and Turkey in the Near East, have all been added to Glasgow’s timetables, mirroring those announced by Thomas Cook earlier in the month.

Kiss director, Paul Moss, revealed that the new routes were the result of heavy pressure from the travel industry, encouraging the young airline to set up shop in Scotland. Glasgow bosses noted that Kiss was the ‘first of many’ airlines due to arrive at the airport over the coming weeks.

Amanda McMillan, director at Glasgow, was full of praise for Kiss Flights – “Kiss is a new name, but the airline has a great deal of past experience in the UK travel industry, and they have made a significant commitment to Glasgow Airport this year.”

Both Thomas Cook and Kiss will begin offering their ‘summer sun’ flights between June and August 2010 – the busiest period of the year for airlines. Barrhead Travel, a tour operator, will also be providing flights to the continent, using aircraft borrowed from British Airways.

Experts predict that as many as 700,000 flights a year disappeared when Flyglobespan went bust. The next twelve months could prove critical to the survival of Glasgow Airport.

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Fury over GARL axe threat

The GARL (Glasgow Airport Rail Link) must not be axed, say business leaders, after it was shelved on September 27th 2009. In the Draft Scottish Budget, it was announced that the GARL project would be abandoned in favour of improving existing infrastructure, saving the government around £120 million in construction fees.

Local executives have reacted angrily to the decision, believing that the GARL is the only way to save Glasgow Airport from financial oblivion. The Abbotsinch site endured the worst of the recent recession, and recently closed its second terminal to cut losses over the winter season. Budget airline EasyJet took umbrage with the decision.

A letter from the Chamber of Commerce to the Financial Secretary accused the Scottish government of having “priorities lying elsewhere” and forcing a “backwards step” for local businesses. Officials cited a £500 million downsizing in Scotland’s budget for the decision, but capitalists fear that much more money could be lost from the government’s vault if access to Glasgow Airport is not improved.

Job losses and a steady rise in traffic jams (especially in the area between Paisley and Abbotsinch) could further exacerbate the city’s problems, encouraging investors to head north to Edinburgh or south of the border into England.

GARL could have produced 1,300 direct jobs, and helped Glasgow compete with fellow BAA airport Edinburgh. The Chambers of Commerce are concerned that Scotland’s economy could stagnate without continued investment in transport infrastructure. Improvements to the M74 and M80 motorways, and the construction of a new hospital, are thought to supersede the GARL project.


‘Desperate’ Glasgow closes terminal

Glasgow Airport is to close its second terminal (T2) over the winter period, in an effort to curb losses and consolidate operations. The building is currently a major EasyJet hub. Operations will be suspended for the duration of the winter season, from 17th November 2009 to 31st March 2010. Officials are hoping to save around £300,000 in maintenance costs.

Airport director, Derek Provan, said it was “economic sense” to put T2 on ice over the winter freeze. Glasgow has suffered persistent losses in the wake of the recent recession, falling behind fellow BAA airport, Edinburgh.

Mr. Provan remains optimistic about the future of the airport, despite claims that the Abbotsinch facility is going the way of the dodo, “The airport is a commercial operation. We need to keep a tight control over our costs so we can make best use of our resources, and invest for the future." An impressive £43m has been invested in Glasgow Airport over the past two years.

Not everybody is happy to see T2 shut down. EasyJet has refused to play fair, declining to leave its spot in the second terminal unless replacement check-in facilities are provided in the main terminal.

The carrier has demanded that the alternative hub be a permanent fixture, painted orange and white.

EasyJet is Glasgow’s most productive airline, providing a huge percentage of the airport’s income. Officials had no choice but to accede to the airline’s request. The main terminal will continue to operate as normal over the winter months.


Glasgow Terminal 2 could be closed for the winter

Glasgow Airport is to consider closing one of its two terminals in a drastic cost-cutting exercise. Terminal 2, only opened five years ago, houses the check-in desks of easyJet, Aer Lingus, Thomas Cook and Canadian Affair. The terminal cost £12 million to build and it is estimated that closing it down over the quieter winter months could save hundreds of thousands of pounds.

The airport’s managing director, Amanda McMillan, was only appointed in 2008. She is looking at a range of economy measures as the airport copes with declining numbers of passengers. As well as the economic climate, the collapse of the Canadian airline Zoom and holiday company XL have also added to these losses. Glasgow is now only the second busiest airport in Scotland having lost its number one position to Edinburgh recently.

Officials at the airport have said that they are looking at a range of options to control its costs and that although they are in discussions with the airlines about the possible closure nothing has been agreed at this stage. Talks have also been held between the airline and representatives of the 200 Terminal 2 staff. The airport is denying that any jobs would be lost because of the potential shut down.

EasyJet have refused to move into the main terminal unless the move is a permanent one and the costs remain the same as they are for Terminal 2. They say ‘we don’t think it would be fair for our passengers who use us all year round.’

Despite the likely closure and also the recent cancellation of the proposed rail link to Glasgow Airport, the airport says that the long term £200 million investment over the next ten years would not be affected.


Glasgow "worst performing airport"

Glasgow Airport has been handed a wooden spoon, after being placed last in the British Airport Authority’s (BAA) monthly traffic table. The Scottish facility has lost close to 1.4m customers over the past two years, effectively ending the airport’s chances of avoiding the saleroom.

When the credit crunch demolished the XL Leisure Company in September 2008, Manchester, Gatwick, and Glasgow airports lost a major holiday provider. Since then, the package holiday industry has been in freefall.

In August, Windsor and Neate, a cruise company based in Newbury, collapsed. The Grim Reaper then came for the Package Holiday Company, a Leeds-based endeavour, and local Glaswegian firm, Cambuslang Travel, a few days later.

With a local company and a major carrier pushing up the daisies, Glasgow Airport was stricken, losing 13.4% of its passengers in just one month.

Overall, the BAA’s seven airports experienced a 5% drop in customer traffic during August 2009. Fifty miles east of Glasgow, Edinburgh Airport enjoyed a 4.8% rise in passenger numbers, due in part to the Edinburgh Festival and Fringe, and the establishment of a new Ryanair base at the site.

A spokesperson for the BAA was quick to boast about the airport’s successes: "With five consecutive months of rising passenger numbers, Edinburgh is one of the few UK airports currently enjoying a period of growth.”

The BAA’s joy could be short-lived, however. In October, the Competition Commission could force the firm to sell one of its Scottish airports, further dismantling the BAA’s monopoly over UK aerospace.

A legal tussle has pushed any prospective sale back to 2012, but with Glasgow’s business model going down the tubes, the airport may find itself flying a new flag within the next five years.


Glasgow Airport welcomes back public rransport

Following the events in June 2007, when Glasgow airport was attacked by attempted suicide bombers, the airport has undergone a huge security revamp on its inner forecourt. The work consisted of installing 300 security bollards and the whole operation cost a reported £2 million.

Security levels were increased as a result, but there was one group of travellers who were inconvenienced by the ongoing works more than any other, and that was those who were arriving by public transport.

However, it was recently announced that the work on this area has now been completed, and once again Glasgow airport will be welcoming back public transport.

After the completion of the work was announced, bus operators in Glasgow stated that they were going to try to increase the number of people arriving at the airport by public transport by 15%, which is up 4% on the current figure. Although this is an ambitious target, it is hoped that this figure will be achieved by 2012.

Amanda McMillan, the managing director of Glasgow airport, has said that the reopening marks a “return to normal for Glasgow airport," and that it is vital to “continue to reduce congestion” around the airport by encouraging a greater level of public transport usage.

This is great news for eco-conscious travellers, and the plans are set to get a further boost in 2013 with the opening of a new rail link, which will surely tempt a larger proportion of the nine million passengers who use the airport annually, to arrive by public transport in the future.