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Edinburgh Airport passenger numbers decline to lowest level since 1995

Posted: 11th February 2021

“No clear path to economic recovery” 

Edinburgh Airport recorded its lowest number of passengers since 1995 in the last 12 months, and the outlook is bleak as the Covid-19 pandemic continues.

The airport handled a little under 3.5m passengers in 2020 – a 76% reduction on the previous year which is estimated to cost the Scottish economy around £1bn and over 21,000 jobs during the same period.

Gordon Dewar, chief executive of Edinburgh Airport said:

“Our thoughts are with those who have lost loved ones through this pandemic and with those on the frontline managing the health crisis.

“The fall in our passenger numbers is only one reflection of the long-term damage being inflicted by Covid-19 on Scotland’s economy and its social fabric, but it is a worrying one and there is no clear path to recovery.

“Nobody should assume that when the pandemic subsides, life will go back to normal. At the airport, we will be starting from a low level of activity not recorded here since 1995 and the choice of airlines and destinations may be dramatically different to those we had worked hard to build before 2020 and on which many people depend for bringing visitors to Scotland and for holidays and business, including exports.

“We believe that now is the right time for industry, government and trade unions to be thinking about a substantial economic recovery plan – one that does not distract the health professionals from the important job of saving lives and protecting the NHS today, but one which puts Scotland in the best possible position to recover as quickly as possible when the conditions allow.

“The power and impact of the aviation industry cannot simply be measured on passenger numbers and the number of aircraft arriving and departing – thousands of people rely on airports and airlines, and their vast supply chains, for the income that puts food on the table and pays the bills. Other countries around the world are providing support for their aviation sectors and UK and Scottish Governments should do the same.”

Independent research on the airport’s economic impact suggests the reduction in passenger numbers to a total of 3,478,501 resulted in a cost to the Scottish economy of £1bn and over 21,000 jobs.

After ten years of significant growth, passenger numbers were down in every quarter as the pandemic took a grip on Scotland with tighter restrictions on travel and border controls.

The vast majority of people travelled before the pandemic hit and numbers plummeted by 99% between April-June, 83% between July-September and 90% between October-December.

Quarter Total – 2019 Total – 2020 Total
Q1 2,966,885 2,369,388 -20%
Q2 4,053,319 34,247 -99%
Q3 4,368,976 750,823 -83%
Q4 3,358,361 324,043 -90%
Full Year 14,747,541 3,478,501 -76%

In early 2020, Edinburgh Airport worked with BiGGAR Economics to understand the positive impact of the airport on Scotland’s economy. Their report found that in 2019, Edinburgh Airport generated £1.4 billion Gross Value Added (GVA) and 28,000 jobs in the Scottish economy.

Wider than that, the report found Covid-19 also impacted on several other things such as:

  • allowing freedom of movement;
  • bringing opportunities for people to live more meaningfully and experience other cultures;
  • promoting Scotland’s culture and heritage;
  • enabling people to remain in contact with friends and family; and
  • enhancing Scotland’s accessibility for visitors.

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