Tuesday, March 27, 2007

BAA-rking Mad

Today's Scotsman is full of articles about air travel out of Scotland's airports. I've only read the online version because the Postie (that's postman to all you southerners) doesn't get here until about 10 a.m. but I assume it's a pull out section on the joys and wonders of air travel - no global warming and taxes on aviation in Scotland thank you very much.

As usual the BAA are at the forefront of promoting their wonderful selves and the fantastic performance at both Edinburgh and Glasgow. As usual it's mostly 'lies, damn lies and statistics.'

One of the articles says that passengers flying from Edinburgh and Glasgow on direct flights to foreign cities is increasing and set to rise even more. This is true because of the increase in overseas destinations over the last two years, and the coming year. What the BAA is doing is masking a rapid slow down in overall growth from both Edinburgh and Glasgow. Last year saw the lowest overall growth in passenger numbers from both Glasgow and Edinburgh in a decade and the trend is continuing again this year. In fact Edinburgh's growth in 2007 slipped to under 2%, when they had been achieving closer to 10% since 1996 - Glasgow's performance is even worse.

These new routes are taking people off the London flights and onto the new direct flights, which makes for a better flying experience for the people using them, but it will mean that the growth in the overall airport numbers that the BAA are predicting will not be achieved. In fact the growth rates at Edinburgh have slipped to the point where the BAA are unlikely to achieve their lowest forecast numbers for 2013, they of course continue to peddle the highest numbers in their PR.

One of the clarion calls from the airport and airlines alike is the boost that all this will bring to Scottish business. In the main the schedules offered by the new routes are not at times that best suit business passengers. This will continue to keep passengers flying through the London airports.

Some of the statistics used in the articles are manipulated to the point of absurdity. Of course there will be a massive surge in international passengers if, in the previous year, some of the international flights were not operating. The fact is we should never lose sight of the overall growth rates at Glasgow and Edinburgh, which will continue, for the conceivable future, to show smaller increases than the last decade.

Behind all this fluff and nonsense from the BAA are a couple of underlying scenarios that are interesting.

1. The BAA is trying to get ground that is currently used/owned by the Royal Highland Show. This land is 'vital' say the BAA for their expansion. Expansion to accommodate the vast numbers of additional passengers that Edinburgh airport is going to be seeing - according to their own flawed forecasts.

2. The new rail and tram link from the city of Edinburgh has been passed. I assume they've used the BAA's passenger forecasts to justify the new surface links. I'll think I'll look into that a bit more.

Added to which the BAA, Spanish owned now, is a listed company and without growth then share price could stagnate. The fact is that with airports ‘competing’ in the way that they do a ‘managed’ approach to aviation involving governments and airlines is tricky. It will be interesting to see if the next party in power at Holyrood continues with the new route subsidies or tries a different approach. I can think of several better ways to improve on the current ways.

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