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Edinburgh Airport signs ground-breaking Beijing partnership amid £80m expansion

Elaine Ballantyne
Beijing Capital International Airport (Source: Edinburgh Airport)

Edinburgh Airport has signed a ground-breaking partnership agreement with Beijing Capital International Airport, whilst also beginning work on an £80m expansion.

Edinburgh Airport, Scotland’s largest carried 12.3m passengers in 2016 and is on track to surpass that record-breaking year in 2017.

Since being sold to infrastructure fund Global Infrastructure Partners in 2012, it has grown significantly, adding long haul and short haul routes and an economic study in 2016 showed that the airport is worth £1bn GVA per year to the Scottish economy, supporting some 23,000 jobs.

Gordon Robertson, director of communications, Edinburgh Airport:

We’ve been working very hard at securing a direct route from Edinburgh to China. Strengthening our airport’s links with that country’s capital airport can only assist in that.

Beijing Capital International Airport, meanwhile, is the main international airport serving Beijing. It is the main hub for Air China, which flies to around 120 destinations from China’s capital. China Eastern Airlines, Hainan Airlines and China Southern Airlines also use the airport as their hub.

The airport has rapidly ascended in rankings of the world's busiest airports in the past decade. It has been the world's second busiest airport in terms of total passenger numbers since 2010 and saw over 94m passengers use it in 2016. The airport registered 557,167 aircraft movements, ranking 6th in the world in 2012.

Shared vision

In major efforts to secure a direct route from Edinburgh to China, Gordon Dewar, Edinburgh Airport’s chief executive has been making many visits to better understand the Chinese markets and press airlines on the benefits to a direct Edinburgh service. Last year, Beijing Airport invited him to the Beijing Global Friend Airports CEO Forum and the seeds of the MoU were sown.

In the correspondence following the Beijing forum, the structure of the agreement took shape and it was clear that the two airports, despite their size differences, had similar ambitions and things to share. Gordon then invited president and chief executive ZhiLiang Han and his team over to Edinburgh to sign the agreement and learn more about Scotland and its capital city.

“The airport has been working very hard at securing a direct route from Edinburgh to China.” says Gordon Robertson, director of communications at Edinburgh Airport. “Strengthening our airport’s links with that country’s capital airport can only assist in that.”

International collaboration

The airports have agreed to collaborate to develop a shared understanding of markets and shared operational and commercial opportunities. They are also keen to explore areas where information and skills can be exchanged to achieve best practise, collaboration and cross-fertilisation of ideas and experience.

Edinburgh is the far smaller of the two – but recently it has witnessed significant growth and has plenty of experience to share.

“Clearly we can learn a lot from one of the world’s biggest airports, so on a commercial and operational level, the rationale is sound.” states Robertson. “Put simply – the main aim is to secure a direct connection and a better airport. The opportunities presented are phenomenal and we’re really excited to be working with the Beijing team on what is the beginning of a long relationship.”

Infrastructure investment

Meanwhile, work has begun on an £80m expansion at the airport, following predictions of a big rise in passenger numbers. A new three-storey extension will provide six more gates, more retail space and customs and immigration when it is finished next summer.

Airport officials are expecting passenger numbers to go up by 16.5 million by 2021. The expansion is part of the airport's £220m capital investment programme.

Gordon Dewar, Edinburgh Airport chief executive, said: "This is a major investment for the capital and Scotland and further establishes Edinburgh Airport as one of the most innovative and forward thinking airports in the UK."

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