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People need ‘convinced’ Dundee Airport delivering as passenger numbers plummet

Dundee Airport passenger numbers
An airplane getting ready for take-off at Dundee Airport.

Dundonians need reassurance the city’s airport is providing value for money as new figures show passenger numbers dropping to fewer than 5,000.

The statistics show Inverness reporting more than 23 times the number of passengers than the airport in Scotland’s fourth largest city.

Passenger numbers across all airports run by government body Hial (Highland and Island Airport Ltd) plummeted last year as Covid-19 grounded thousands of flights.

But in light of the small Dundee passenger figures, leading figures have said more can be done to maximise the airport’s potential.

West End councillor Richard McCready said residents “who are subsidising Dundee Airport” need to be “convinced the investment leads to jobs” in the city.

He said: “Local people need to know it improves the overall performance of the economy in the region.”

He added that everything should be done to “limit the environmental impact of the airport”.

Residents need to support city airport

Alison Henderson, chief executive of Dundee and Angus Chamber of Commerce, said she would like to see “many more locals using Dundee Airport for domestic travel instead of going elsewhere.

“It’s such a great travel experience. It’s so convenient and provided the price is competitive it’s incomparable to using a bigger airport.

“The more we use it, the more the service will be sustained and can grow.

Dundee Airport passenger numbers
Alison Henderson of Dundee and Angus Chamber of Commerce.

“We need domestic travel to get back to pre-pandemic levels as soon as possible to support that investment and build on it [London City and Belfast services] to allow the airlines to add more sustainable routes.”

However, the hammer blow of losing the Amsterdam flight in 2017 has shown the airport needs investment to “back a similar carrier and route”, Alison added.

“Having that key international connection to a hub airport for onward travel would be a really strong addition.”

The Covid catalyst

Dr Ellis Urquhart, lecturer in tourism, airport and airline management at Napier University, said Covid has been “something of a catalyst for what was already bubbling under the surface” concerning smaller Scottish airports.

He said: “Island destinations are reliant on their air traffic connectivity for essential services. They’re not just leisure and business travellers.

Covid has been… a catalyst for what was already bubbling under the surface.”

Dr Ellis Urquhart

“It’s a slightly different sort of market dynamic, but it’s a critical part of their infrastructure because they’re not joined to the mainland.”

Is Dundee Airport big enough to handle more traffic?

Expansion was one method Dr Urquhart suggested Hial could explore to drive demand.

Dr Urquhart added: “One option would be to really look at expansion in terms of the airport itself so it could accommodate larger scale aircraft.

“Naturally that brings with it challenges… but if they want to reach into new markets, that’s probably something to be considered in the long term for the sustainability of Dundee itself.

“They’re [airports] relying on the airlines really taking a significant interest and being willing to invest in terms of routes services and schedules.

“The most visible thing airports have direct control over is their infrastructure and facilities.”

Stronger links with comparable domestic cities, like the Loganair service to Belfast, could also boost passenger numbers, he said.

Hial’s ‘crucial role’

Inglis Lyon, Hial managing director, admits coronavirus will continue to have an impact on the airline industry for some time.

“We are pleased that some domestic scheduled flights have recommenced and there is some optimism that international travel can resume, with appropriate safeguards.

“With that in place we can look to rebuild passenger numbers.

“The pandemic has underlined the crucial role Hial’s airports continue to play in maintaining connectivity for our communities.

“Hial will continue to work with the Scottish Government, partner agencies and airline partners to safeguard and develop key routes.”

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