Glasgow gets German route

The self-proclaimed, ‘number one domestic airline,’ Flybe, has introduced a flight to Frankfurt, Germany, from Glasgow Airport. The route will operate between four and twelve times a week, according to a press release by the carrier, and connect to the German city via Southampton Airport.

Beginning 1 August, Flybe’s new route is designed to generate business links between Scotland and ‘key destinations,’ such as Frankfurt. The airline claims that its latest addition is in response to demand from Scottish executives, who may not wish to travel the 40 miles to Edinburgh for a direct flight to Germany.

Flybe also hopes that its Glasgow-Frankfurt route will demonstrate that the budget carrier has its collective fingers in two lucrative pies – the leisure and tourism industry, and the heady world of business travel. The airline’s Chief Commercial Officer, Mike Rutter, explained that the flight was both ‘convenient’ and ‘cost-effective’ for travellers.

Glasgow is Flybe’s third UK base to provide a flight to Frankfurt, after Birmingham and Manchester airports. Tickets begin at £53.99, taxes included, for a one-way trip, departing at 13.35 on each day of operation. Unfortunately, the short stop in Southampton adds a good two hours to the total travel time.

Passengers can expect to spend an average of 4hrs 25mins in the sky, double that of flights between the Scottish capital, Edinburgh, and Frankfurt. The return flight leaves Germany at 19.00, arriving in Glasgow some 3 hours later, at 22.00.

Frankfurt is one of the largest cities in Germany, and ranks alongside Paris and London as an economic powerhouse. The city is sometimes referred to as ‘Bankfurt’ in honour of its many financial institutions, including the headquarters of Deutsche Bank and Commerzbank, and the Frankfurt stock exchange.

‘Busiest day’ at Glasgow

Last week, Glasgow Airport enjoyed its busiest day of the year, as Scottish schools let their students out for the summer holidays. The hub helped around 33,000 people to their destinations on Friday, and 100,000 over the weekend as a whole, yet travel experts continue to warn of another ‘staycation.’

Recent figures indicate that Palma, Tenerife, and Alicante in Spain were the most popular routes served by Glasgow, with Dalaman, Turkey, close behind. The airport was optimistic about a series of new destinations being offered by UK tour operators, Kiss Flights and Barrhead Travel, who have recently set up shop at the Scottish airport.

Glasgow’s director, Amanda McMillan, was delighted with the busy weekend – ‘It is fantastic to see so many holidaymakers passing through the airport, particularly given the challenges faced by the aviation industry.’ Amanda said that travellers had defied the credit crunch to spend time away from Britain’s unreliable weather.

Despite warnings of a ‘double-dip’ recession, it seems likely that Britons will continue to holiday abroad during the summer, especially if a recent survey by Tesco is to be believed. The shopping giant found that a week in Limassol, Cyprus, came in at £470 cheaper than a week in Brighton.

Holidays in Bodrum, Turkey, Budapest in Hungary, Warsaw in Poland, and Ljubljana in Slovenia were also less expensive than England’s famous resort. The city of Sofia, Bulgaria, offered the best value for money, costing half of what a family of four could expect to pay for a week in Brighton.

If prices at foreign resorts continue to fall, the Scottish government could find itself out of pocket – ministers recently invested £5m in the Visit Scotland initiative, designed to drum up interest in local resorts.

BAA customers down last month

The airline industry has been in the news recently for all the wrong reasons. As if the recession hadn’t been enough, suddenly BA was suffering major industrial action, and then the entire UK airline industry came to a halt in spectacular fashion with the eruption of Icelandic volcano Eyjafjallajoekull.

Now the extent of the damage caused by the BA strike and the volcanic ash shutdown has been revealed by BAA. The company owns six airports in the UK: Heathrow, Glasgow, Stansted, Edinburgh, Southampton and Aberdeen. It has just announced that in May 2010 the amount of customers to use its airports was just 8.6 million in total – a drop of 4.5% compared to May 2009.

BAA confirmed that, as a result of the volcanic ash and the BA strike, it lost a massive 445,000 passengers – not the best news when you are trying to recover from a recession.

In terms of individual airports, Heathrow saw 5.3 million passengers pass through during the month, a fall of 3.1%; Glasgow saw 560,000 passengers (down 13.7%); and Edinburgh saw 726,000 (down 11.6%).

The biggest overall fall came in domestic flights, with a drop of 16.5% recorded for the month. However, an increase of over 5% was reported for charter flights to Europe and North Africa, which was some good news at least.

Without the volcanic ash and the strike, BAA predicted that it would have seen a 2.8% increase in passenger numbers at Heathrow, and a 0.4% increase over the whole group.

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.