Edinburgh airport chief executive Gordon Dewar has described the Scottish government’s decision not to reduce air passenger duty (APD) as a “short sighted” move, which contributed to Norwegian’s decision to cut two routes from the gateway this winter.
Speaking at the Routes Europe conference in Bilbao on 22 April, Dewar described the decision by the Scottish executive not to go ahead with plans to replace ADP with a new lower air departure tax in April 2018 as “unfortunate”.
“They [Norwegian] were promised by the Scottish government that APD was going to be reduced by the end of this parliament, which is looming, and yet there is no commitment to do that yet,” he says.
Norwegian previously opened routes from Edinburgh to Stewart, Hartford and Providence. It suspended flights to Hartford in March and will halt services to Providence this winter.
The Scandinavian airline noted that when it began operating the Hartford route in June 2017 there was the “prospect” that Scotland’s government would cut APD this year.
Dewar notes Norwegian experienced “soft” load factors on the two routes. He suggests that if the government had “done what it said” and cut APD, this would have helped the Oslo-based carrier maintain those services.
In October 2017, finance secretary Derek Mackay told the Scottish parliament that securing EU approval for continuing to exempt Highlands and Islands airports from air tax would delay the whole process of reducing APD.
Dewar said he was “still very confident” that the Scottish government could be persuaded to cut APD within the next two years.