Edinburgh Airport call for 'more robust' testing amid 91% drop in passengers

Scotland’s busiest airport has warned it faces an “uncertain future” and will not break even until 2021 as its chief executive calls for a “robust testing regime” to help the industry recover.

Tuesday, 13th October 2020, 12:30 pm
The airport has said the number of passengers travelling through the airport has dropped by 91 per cent
The airport has said the number of passengers travelling through the airport has dropped by 91 per cent

Gordon Dewar, the chief executive of Edinburgh Airport said the challenge of recovery for the travel industry was now “really hitting home” as the airport released its passenger figures for summer 2020.

In total, the airport saw a drop of 91 per cent in the number of people travelling through the airport, down from 8.4 million in 2019 to just 785,000 between April and September.

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The airport had been set to welcome a predicted 8.8 million people through the airport, but instead its busiest months, June, July and August, saw just half a million fly via Edinburgh, with only 20,000 flying in June.

Edinburgh Airport's chief executive Gordon Dewar has previously criticised justice secretary Humza Yousaf's attitude to the aviation sector

Last year, the same three months saw 4.4 million passengers, more than half of the airport’s annual total.

The airport said the numbers showed the stark reality of the challenge facing the aviation industry despite the airport already laying off a third of its previously 750-strong workforce in order to survive the pandemic.

Mr Dewar added: “It’s been an incredibly difficult time for all of us and the scale of the recovery challenge that faces us is now really hitting home. These figures highlight the huge impact Covid-19 has had and continues to have, something that is being felt across the travel and tourism industries and the economy as a whole.

“Scotland’s recovery will be protracted and tough, and the aviation industry will face similar challenges to ensure it can reconnect the country to the world. There are still many unknowns which make that difficult to chart.”

Mr Dewar repeated calls for a “robust testing regime” to replace the quarantine system in place which requires travellers to self-isolate for 14 days on arrival in Scotland from certain countries.

The airport boss has previously labelled the system "ineffective and unworkable” and the cause of “incredibly dark days ahead” following a row with justice secretary Humza Yousaf.

However, the airport added that talks are ongoing with the Scottish Government about a potential pilot scheme at Edinburgh of a testing regime’s ability to reduce risk of transmission and protect public health.

Mr Dewar said: “We have spent years building growth in our passengers, routes and infrastructure, so to see all of that fall back is a concerning position for us to be in. Losing valued friends and colleagues has been difficult for us and we still face an uncertain future as we continue to grapple with this awful virus.

“Our own recovery will be difficult – we do not expect to break even until 2021 and we face tough choices to ensure we protect as many jobs as we can, and that will always be our main focus.

"Our business plans have been in a constant state of flux due to circumstances worsening, the introduction of and constant changes to quarantine, and of course all of this feeds into passenger confidence. We need to see a robust testing regime which will protect public health, provide reassurance and see travel and tourism begin to rebuild.”

The Scottish Government have been contacted for comment.

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