New report shows Scotland lagging behind European competitor nations with respect to short-haul, long-haul and direct air connectivity

September 14, 2017

Despite the establishment of an impressive number of new routes in recent years, Scotland lags behind European competitor nations with respect to short-haul, long-haul and direct air connectivity, a new report carried out by the consultancy RDC has found. The full report is available here.

Airlines and travel companies are urging the Scottish Parliament to support a 50% reduction in aviation taxes to create even more opportunities for future growth in new and existing routes, which will provide an economic boost to the country and demonstrate that Scotland is “open for business”.

The report – which was commissioned by aviation and travel associations Airlines UK and ABTA – compares Scotland to ten similar sized European nations in terms of the number of countries and destinations served. It made the following observations:

  • Airlines operate direct services from Scotland to 131 destinations in 35 countries, plus indirect services to 420 destinations in 136 countries.
  • Of the 11 countries, Scotland ranks 10th in terms of countries served (9th in terms of destinations) – ahead of only Iceland (with a population 1/20th the size of Scotland’s). Two competitor countries – Ireland and Norway – are smaller in terms of population but have measurably greater connectivity than Scotland.
  • Scotland’s weakest area is in direct long-haul connectivity, where it ranks 11th out of 11 in terms of the number of destinations served (11), and joint 9th in terms of the number of countries served (5).
  • Scotland’s strongest area is in its indirect connectivity, where it has services to a reasonable number of European and Middle Eastern hub airports (8), which in turn facilitate services to a large number of global destinations.
  • With respect to direct short-haul connectivity, Scotland ranks 10th out of 11 in terms of countries served with direct services (30) and 7th out of 11 in terms of destinations served (120).

The report investigates the relative connectivity of Scotland in the context of the devolution of passenger taxes and the proposed reductions in the Air Departure Tax (ADT) following its devolution to the Scottish Government. Whilst making clear that there are many reasons and factors that contribute to different levels of connectivity, not exclusively related to taxation, it concludes that:

  • Scotland has by far the highest air passenger taxes of the 11 countries analysed, and of the 10 other countries only one levies a tax greater than 1/10th of that levied in Scotland.

Airlines UK and ABTA support the stated policy of the Scottish Government to reduce ADT by 50% from April 2018, and abolish the tax when economic circumstances allow.

Tim Alderslade, Chief Executive of Airlines UK, said: “Scottish airports and the airlines operating from them have done a great job in increasing the number of countries and destinations served in recent years – and this has been borne out by the record growth that we have witnessed. Passengers now have more choice and options than ever before – whether inbound or outbound – and that is great news for Scottish tourism and companies looking to trade and do business, both domestically within the UK and overseas.

“That said, it is clear from the report that more can be done to ensure Scotland reaches its full potential and better competes with its European rivals. We support the Scottish Government’s stated goal of reducing ADT by 50% from next April, and although the report makes clear that there are many reasons and factors that contribute to connectivity, it is our view that reducing ADT will make Scotland a more attractive place for airlines to add capacity, delivering new routes and more services.”

Mark Tanzer, Chief Executive of Abta, said: “We welcome the Scottish Government’s commitment to reducing ADT, which is good news for Scottish travellers and businesses. The current levels are massively out of step with our European counterparts. We believe lower rates will help Scotland’s international competitiveness and the ability of Scottish airports to attract additional connectivity, as this report shows.

“ABTA believes the Scottish Government should implement any reduction as quickly as possible. The most effective way of ensuring the competitive benefits of any reductions are reaped is to deliver these in one hit, not to stagger any reductions over a longer period. ABTA will be encouraging the Scottish Government to take a bold approach, and to implement the full 50% reduction from 1 April 2018. This will benefit millions of Scottish holidaymakers and business travellers who currently pay the highest levels of aviation tax in Europe.”