Glasgow Airport ‘more likely’ to be sold as trade lags Edinburgh

21.2.2010   (Scotsman business)
By Erikka Askeland
PRESSURE on BAA to sell Glasgow Airport is set to intensify after new figures
revealed it is lagging behind Edinburgh in winning new airlines and passengers.
While Scotland’s capital has managed to fill the gap left by the collapse of
Scottish airline Flyglobespan, Glasgow is said to be struggling to replace the
lost business.

A spokesman for Edinburgh said new routes and extra flights added by air carriers this month, including Ryanair and Jet2, had replaced the 400,000 passengers
a year going through the airport on Flyglobespan.

Glasgow Airport, however, had a larger number of Flyglobespan customers, more
than 550,000, leaving it struggling to fill the deficit. A source said Glasgow
would find it “difficult to get other carriers to commit to backfilling” this
year. Both airports have made progress in expanding routes.

In Glasgow, Thomas Cook, Thomson Holidays and First Choice have announced extra
capacity on Mediterranean routes while Virgin Atlantic confirmed an extra seven
summer flights to Florida.

But Glasgow lost out when Ryanair added three new routes and extra flights on
16 others from Edinburgh and Prestwick.

Ian Doubtfire, managing director of, which announced a 14th route from
Edinburgh to Palma, Majorca, last week, said there was “no reason why we couldn’t”
expand in Glasgow but that the airline preferred maintaining its focus on Edinburgh.

“We see Edinburgh as a market we can develop,” said Doubtfire. “It has been a
fast growing airport over the past few years, it is a very attractive inbound
destination so we will continue to service Edinburgh for the time being.”

BAA, which owns both airports, will reveal its annual results tomorrow, releasing
new figures on its level of debt. Last September BAA had a debt burden of £13
billion. This will have been reduced following the £1.5bn sale of Gatwick and
a complex refinancing which reduced its Spanish owner Ferrovial’s stake in the
business from 61 per cent to 56 per cent. In January, analysts warned Ferrovial
was at risk of a possible default on its debt.

In December, the Competition Appeal Tribunal upheld BAA’s appeal against the
Competition Commission’s ruling that it would have to sell Stansted as well as
either Edinburgh or Glasgow.   The commission itself has launched a counter appeal.

John Strickland, an aviation analyst, said BAA had merely won a delay in the
process and that the company’s debt load would require the sale of airports whether
the Competition Commission won its case or not.

“It guarantees as least a delay, but given their debt position we will still
see those airports sold,” said Strickland.

Stuart Barwood, an aviation analyst with Brolin Consulting, said Edinburgh’s
improving business made Glasgow the sale target.

“My gut feel is they (BAA] will want to keep Edinburgh,” said Barwood. “The one
thing Edinburgh has is a good inbound destination. You get the high yielding passengers
going through Edinburgh rather than Glasgow. Glasgow is much more Scottish people
flying outbound. Edinburgh has a combination of two-way traffic which you need.”

During 2009, the number of passengers using Glasgow airport fell by – 11.3%,
while the number rose by 0.6% at Edinburgh.
During January 2010,   Glasgow had    386,763 passengers, which was -12% compared
to the number in January 2009 (which was itself down  -12% on January 2008).
During January 2010, Edinburgh  had 513,357 passengers, which was -7.3% compared
to the number in  January 2009, which was itself down – 6% on January 2008).