Dundee’s new direct air route to Amsterdam got off to a disjointed start with a two hour delay for its maiden flight.
Politicians and members of the business community gathered to praise the new route, which is expected to give the city and economic boost through increased tourism and investment thanks to the ease of access to Schiphol, the massive Dutch transport hub airport.
The sound of bagpipes greeted the first inbound passengers on the Flybe operated flight alongside a host of dignitaries, including a number of Oor Wullies.
Two fire engines, one of which was waving a Saltire and the other a Netherlands tricolour, sprayed the aircraft as part of a traditional water canon welcome.
But ordinary passengers were left frustrated at their wait to depart the City of Discovery.
Not even the memory of free fizz and Dundee Cake in the waiting room could stop grumbles from some after they finally boarded only to be told the near capacity aeroplane would sit on the tarmac for another 30 minutes.
Adrian Ngiam, a student at St Andrews University, missed his connection to Hong Kong because of the delay, which was caused by problems with air traffic control in the Netherlands.
He said: “I’m not going to make it. It’s frustrating but it’s out of the staff’s control. You can’t really blame them.”
Vincent Hodder, chief revenue officer at Flybe, said the Amsterdam-Dundee route was the most successful route the company has ever launched with more than 1,400 seats sold in the first five days.
That number now stands at around 7,000 and Mr Hodder hinted that extra Dutch flights, as well as new routes, could be added if demand remains high.
The Courier understands affordable flights to London City are next on the agenda.
Mr Hodder said he wanted the current low prices to Amsterdam to rise, but insisted they will remain within the reach of ordinary people.
He added: “We would like to see slightly higher pricing than we have in the market right now but it’s all about keeping a balance between what you’re charging and how you’re stimulating the market so more and more people are travelling and we can grow our business and airline.”
Lord Dunlop, the Scotland Office Minister and Minister for Dundee, said the new route made the world Dundee’s oyster in terms of growing businesses and tourism.
He added: “I am really pleased that the UK Government has been able to invest in Flybe’s new Dundee to Amsterdam route, giving Dundee great links to Europe and beyond.
“The city – and Tayside – are on the up, with exciting new developments poised to bring jobs, prosperity and opportunities to the area.”
Chris Law, who has campaigned for the new route and is now planning further expansion, expressed his delight as he prepared to board the first flight.
He also met Wilco Warr, regional manager with Dundee global learning company Insights, who had promised the Dundee West MP he would cycle from his home in Amsterdam to the company’s office by the Tay once the first flight was airborne.
A bicycle duly awaited Mr Warr upon arrival.
SNP politician Mr Law said: “I’m just about grinning from ear to ear. It’s great to see the first people coming in from Holland. It’s almost fully booked today and I believe on Friday 75 out of 78 seats are booked. It’s really exciting.”
Humza Yousaf, the Transport Minister, said local universities could benefit from students and academics from overseas being attracted by the ease of access to the city.
For more on the start of the new air service, see Tuesday’s Courier.